Thanks to The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for the review code
Title: The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 08/13/2020
The Essence of Time is falling apart, and you are tasked with being the ambassador to travel throughout the ages and restore the flow of time!
One thing that impressed me with the soundtrack at the very least, was the surprisingly soothing title theme: I booted this game up once, did some cleaning of my room before I got to playing, and as it sat on the title screen, the calming BGM really grew on me, serving as great background noise. The rest of the game’s soundtrack is equally serviceable, though I wouldn’t say any of these tracks are iPod worthy either: they just get the job done as accompaniment, and that’s fine with me, with the Ice World theme being a big favorite.
In terms of how the game actually looks? Well, it’s yet another pixel art top down game, and you know how I feel about those. The animation is decent enough, and some of the visual effects like the time magic look cool for a little bit, but otherwise I don’t have too much else to say, besides the fact that this game could very well be mistaken for a few other similar games like it, and it doesn’t feel like it has much of an identity.
The main goal of The Ambassador is to use your duty as the ambassador, and travel through time to blow up foes in this twin stick shooter. Thus, the controls are as you’d expect from a game in this genre, so I don’t even really need to describe them, outside of this game’s core gimmick: holding the ZL button will cause you to unleash time magic, allowing for skillful dodges and manipulation to pull you out of tight spots. This magic impacts enemies and obstacles that get caught up in the aura, but it does have a time limit.
After clearing the tutorial, you’ll then be given a choice of three worlds to go through, in any order you want. These are broken up into individual stages, and the goal of these levels is to clear them of all enemies in as fast a time as possible. You have infinite tries to clear these stages, and with three hits you’re done for, respawning back at the start of the level. However, any enemies you already killed will remain dead, so death really just impacts your best time and overall performance, meaning that with persistence, you can eventually clear a tricky stage.
That’s a big relief, since the levels in The Ambassador are a mixed bag. Some of the level gimmicks I found to be pretty un-intrusive and simple to avoid, such as crumbling bridges, but others such as moving insta-death blocks can just be outright infuriating. One odd quirk I noticed is how aiming with the right stick scrolls the camera, which can lead to moments where moving backwards and shooting makes it tougher to notice incoming hazards, causing some blindsided situations.
When you clear certain levels, you’ll gain new equipment to put on: from new weapon types, magic wands, and armor, you’ll be able to diversify your arsenal a good amount, and with mana being used for stronger magic attacks, the wands in particular are especially useful for breaking crates and defeating the tougher foes and bosses, so there is some merit in going out of order with the worlds to make certain levels easier than they normally would be.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t much else to note with The Ambassador. The choice you have in the stages is a neat touch, as is the time gimmick, but that doesn’t stop the ordeal from being a dull twin-stick at the end of the day, with not much else to note: there is replay value in the form of some in-game achievements and perfecting your best time per stages, but I just couldn’t find myself that engaged with the core loop, sadly.
In conclusion, The Ambassador didn’t really click with me much at all. While it did have some cool time manipulation mechanics and controlled pretty well for a twin-stick shooter, it didn’t offer much of anything substantial that managed to engage me, and ultimately it just wore out rather quickly.
I do love that you can choose between multiple worlds and take turns between them at your own pace, and the in-game achievements do lead to a good amount of replay value, but with the core gameplay being repetitive and unremarkable, I can’t really recommend this one at the steep asking price: definitely consider it on a sale if you can’t get enough of twin-sticks, but otherwise, leave this one to a time void.
I give The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines a 5 out of 10.