H. G. Wells’ “Time Machine” is a classic work of early science fiction, and Bill Maya’s “Time Machine” is a short interactive-fiction work based off it. Rather than following the original story directly, though, the protagonist attempts to recreate the journey, here taken by Wells himself, to prove the author’s sanity.
Gameplay: To prove that the machine is indeed functional, the protagonists explores Wells’ laboratory, travels to the distant future, and recovers a flower as evidence for Wells’ story. The present-time setting is realistic but not particularly interesting, and there isn’t much at all to do in the future. Wells himself never appears (or, at least, I completed the game without encountering him after the opening cutscene), and there’s no further exploration of time travel beyond fetching an object from the future and traveling back with it. More than half the game is spent trying to get the time machine up and running, but there’s no payoff to the player (as opposed to the protagonist) besides continuing the plot. 4/10.
Mechanics: There are a few mechanical puzzles involved in getting into the laboratory, and repairing the time machine requires fetching a replacement part. In the future, obtaining the flower doesn’t involve much beyond wandering around the setting and having some desultory interactions with the Eloi there. Time travel itself isn’t a mechanic besides jumping once into the future and once back to the present, and the puzzles in the game are familiar ones that could fit into any other genre of interactive fiction. 5/10.
Presentation: The gameplay is solid, although there were problems with a few commands: Trying to KILL HUMBOLDT doesn’t give any response at all, and the command TAKE ALL is disabled without any particularly compelling reason for it. The first half of the game does establish the Victorian setting, but there aren’t many distinctive details of the future setting. Even though the NPCs had a bit of personality to them, they ultimately weren’t distinctive either. The text of the game itself is solid mechanically but doesn’t have much flavor to add to a plot and puzzles that don’t offer a lot of originality. A fan sequel or extension to Wells’ original story is a great idea that definitely has potential, but it needs some compelling hook or vivid prose to grab the player. 4/10.
You might enjoy this game if: You’re a fan of the original novella.