I have a deep appreciation for time loops and the ways in which they are presented in TV, film, and video games. The problem? I struggle mightily to wrap my head around them, at least in the initial watch or playthrough. This has put me in a bit of a predicament recently, seeing as how the time loop genre (is it a “genre”?) is the current zeitgeist within the realm of video games. Deathloop is the most notable title in this regard, but there are plenty of other indie titles that revolve around the same premise of time loops and parallel universes. One such title is the recently released Treasures of the Aegean, from developer Undercoders. With its 2D comic book-style art design, addicting parkour-based platforming, and story that is centered around time loops, Treasures of the Aegean is a game worth checking out for fans of any of the genre.
Treasures of the Aegean puts you in the shoes of Marie Taylor as she, along with her historian/treasure hunting colleague, James Andrew, as they explore an ancient Minoan civilization. Using her parkour skills, Marie runs, jumps, slides, swings, and wall jumps her way through the massive abandoned city of Thera, uncovering clues to its history while collecting artifacts along the way.
This is no leisurely exploration, though, as Marie and James find themselves trapped in a time loop, allowing them to only explore the city a handful of minutes at a time. To make matters worse, Marie and James eventually realize that they aren’t the only ones looking to uncover the city’s secrets.
What initially drew me to Treasures of the Aegean was its unique comic book-style art design, reminiscent of Comix Zone – one of the best games of all time. Although you don’t necessarily run from panel to panel in Treasures of the Aegean like you do in Comix Zone, cutscenes and dialogue are presented as such, and while there are little actual animated movements – coming mostly as static images – these moments are still just as engaging as the platforming.
Treasures of the Aegean’s platforming is arguably its most entertaining feature. As a parkour specialist, Marie is more than capable of traversing the ruins of Thera as she jumps from platform to platform, swings from vines, slides down steep terrain, and wall jumps her way back to the surface. You can almost think of it as a 2D Mirror’s Edge. As she explores, she encounters puzzles that need to be overcome and visual challenges that need to be deciphered. Treasures of the Aegean is a surprisingly cerebral game in that regard, requiring you to pay attention to the notes and clues to discover as you explore the map to help you as you explore more of the map.
And what a map it is! The ancient city of Thera is massive, stacked with layers upon layers to be discovered. As you explore the city and uncover new areas, your GPS map will be updated to reveal those areas thanks to Marie dropping her phone into the city ruins every time she escapes just before the time loop starts over.
Ah yes, the time loop. Initially, Marie has only about 15-minutes at a time to actually explore the ruins before the time loop resets itself, that time eventually increasing as she collects more artifacts. Each run also begins in a randomly selected spot, which means that you’ll need to act quickly to familiarize yourself with your current location. Because Marie drops her phone at the end of each run, the modern technology somehow makes its way into the hands of the ancient civilians who use the data to physically draw out the map, which then (obviously) becomes available to future generations. Time loops, am I right? The time mechanic plays a large role in fleshing out the narrative, with more of the story and character backgrounds being revealed between exploration sessions.
In true Metroidvania fashion, the randomness and sense of urgency requires quick thinking and on-the-fly strategies. It took me a while to get a feel for what I actually needed to do during each run, but that also allowed me to get a hang of the tight and precision-based platforming required to run through the map quickly, which was perfectly fine because it is very addicting. Once I got a hang of it, though, each run became more decisive than the last.
There’s a lot to take in and comprehend when you first start Treasures of the Aegean. It’s never frustrating or off putting, though. In fact, with every new run (whether it was successful or not), I found myself just wanting to know more about the lore of this mysterious ancient city and what exactly the time loop was all about. For lore buffs, puzzle solvers, and platforming fans, Treasures of the Aegean is right up your alley.
An Xbox Series X code was provided to TheGamer for this review. Treasures of the Aegean is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch.
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