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Video Game / Time Bandit

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An early view of The Timegates, with Excalibur and Welkin Island at the top, Guardian and Sentinel flanking Cheops' Curse on the left just below the player, Gridville near the center, Major Hazard at center right, Omega Complex at lower right, and Shadowlands and the save/load sign in the lower left.
Time Bandit: The Arcade Adventure is a Three-Quarters View Shoot 'Em Up Maze Game with some Adventure Game elements, originally written for the TRS-80 Model I and ported to the Color Computer and Dragon32. It was expanded and rewritten as one of the early releases for the Atari ST, which was by far the most popular release of the game; this version was then ported to the Amiga, and (with some changes due to graphics limitations) to the IBM Personal Computer and Tandy 1000. (Note: this page mostly describes the Atari ST version, unless noted otherwise.)

The player begins in The Timegates, a Hub World with 16 gates to different worlds. Each world has up to 16 levels associated with it, each with 4 major phases (numbered 1 through 4) with up to four sub-levels per phase (A through D). Sub-levels are typically the same basic level, but mirrored across one or both axes. The player's goal is to collect the six Great Artifacts, available in phase four of some worlds, usually in 4D.

While many worlds are just about blasting enemies, several provide adventure-type puzzles, some even having basic verb-noun text adventures.

The 16 timegates are loosely grouped into six areas, with all but one area having three gates in it. The areas are:

  • Space
    • Darkside Dare - The Maze with invisible walls that only appear after you try to go through them.
    • Excalibur - a Star Trek pastiche, one of the most complicated adventures in the game. Board the legendary Fleet starship Excalibur, adrift over the planet Voracious-12 after the crew is captured by Klingons, and see if you can save the ship and her crew. Notably, Excalibur only has four levels: 1A, 2B, 3C, and 4D.
    • Welkin Island - The Maze set In Space, with dangerous star fields and black holes that can teleport you around the map.
  • Ancient Egypt
    • Sentinel - A guardian sphinx to the west of the pyramid, it hides the Ankh required to unlock the heart of the pyramid.
    • Cheops' Curse - The pyramid of Cheops, which holds one of the Great Artifacts.
    • Guardian - A guardian sphinx to the east of the pyramid, it hides the scepter required to unlock the heart of the pyramid.
  • Fantasy
    • Castle Greymoon - Kelveeshan, the source of Good King Quark's power, has been kidnapped by the evil Sorceress, and escaped. Both the Sorceress and the King offer rewards for his return, but they are not the only options available.
    • King's Crown - Good King Quark's crown has been stolen by the ruthless warlock DiffEq; only the bravest can fight their way through the Warlock's stronghold to return it.
    • Underworld Arena - A large Gladiator Games arena full of enemies.
  • Science Fiction
    • Major Hazard - A science fiction obstacle course, full of bouncing fireballs.
    • Gridville - A grid level full of monsters, with zip-tubes and teleporter discs carrying the player between areas.
    • Omega Complex - A power plant on the verge of a meltdown, full of monsters and pulsing with energy.
  • The Wild West
    • Bomb Factory - An area where all the enemies are Action Bombs that frequently explode when shot, sending out shrapnel.
    • Hotel California - A creepy Old West Haunted House.
    • Ghost Town - An Old West ghost town, with puzzles involving burying the dead who were left outside the cemetery.
  • Central
    • Shadowland - A Pac-Man clone, with four ghosts of the player character roaming around.
    • The central area also has the save/load point and status board, showing how far the player has gotten in each world.

Not to be confused with Time Bandits or the 2023 stealth/puzzle game.

In 2010, over 20 years after MichTron went out of business, Harry Lafnear (one of the game's authors), published The Timelord's Handbook as a print-on-demand book detailing the creation of the game, providing an updated manual, and giving both gentle clues and explicit walkthroughs for the adventure games.

Tropes in Time Bandit include:

  • Aggressive Play Incentive: The faster the player moves, the more points they get for killing enemies, from 50 for constant movement down to zero for standing still for long enough.
  • All There in the Manual: Many details are only available in The Timelord's Handbook, which was intended to be a clue book printed just after the Amiga and MS-DOS ports. Unfortunately, due to issues at MichTron, it ended up being shoved in a drawer for 20 years until the emulation scene revived the game.
  • Ancient Egypt: Home of Sentinel, Guardian, and Cheops' Curse. To unlock the treasure, the player must find an ankh and use that to decipher scrolls to access the golden scepter, then use both the ankh and scepter to get the golden mask.
  • Anti Idling: Both in levels and in the overworld:
    • In a level, the score you get for shooting enemies is based on how quickly you've been moving; if you stand still for long enough, it will go down to 0.
    • In the overworld, after you've completed a couple levels, indestructible flying saucers spawn. Shooting them will knock them back, but will not stop them. If they touch you, they drop you into a random gate.
  • Asteroids Monster: Space levels have the grey Watch Tribbles that explode into four red Elmos, and the Maker Pod that explodes into four Seekers.
  • Bonus Level: Not all levels need to be completed to gain the artifacts. The only levels that need to be completed are Excalibur, parts of the three Egyptian levels, Castle Greymoon, King's Crown, Ghost Town, and Shadowland.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: The pyramid of Cheops' Curse is flanked by the two sphinxes of Guardian and Sentinel.
  • Cap:
    • The player can have a maximum of 16 lives; more than that are wasted.
    • The player can only hold one key at a time. Other keys act like walls to the player if they already have a key.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Player 1 is yellow, player 2 is blue. The ghosts in Shadowland are the same character model, but black with an outline.
  • Copy Protection: The PC version requires a passphrase entry from the manual. Additionally, there's an integrity check on the manual check routine which results in invulnerable enemies (that don't even receive knockback.)
  • Death Is Cheap:
    • When the player is hit by an enemy, the screen flashes and there's a bell, and the number of lives remaining goes down by one. The game doesn't stop or even slow down.
    • In two-player mode, if one player runs out of lives, they get to go around as a shadow. They can do almost anything a normal player can, except score points, progress the adventure, or die; if they would die, they are instead stunned for a few seconds. Notably, they can still shoot, and Friendly Fireproof is still averted.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The original TRS-80 game was more closely based on the arcade game Tutankham, including restrictions like only being able to shoot left or right. It also had 21 worlds, seven each of fantasy, science fiction, and western.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Every 1,000 points, you get an extra life, after starting with 15, and capped at 16. You'll need every one of them.
  • Flash of Pain: When the player loses a life, the screen flashes.
  • Fog of War: The walls in Darkside Dare don't appear until you touch them - notably, this means you can fire through them and enemies can walk through them.
  • Hub Level: The Timegates, an overworld area with gates to the other worlds.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Required to open the locks that are the size of the player. The player can only carry one at a time.
  • Level in Reverse: B levels are flipped top-to-bottom relative to A levels, C levels are flipped left-to-right, and D levels are flipped in both directions. There are often other minor changes, such as the addition of one-way doors.
  • Locked Door: The exits are generally blocked with gigantic locks the size of the player, openable only with Interchangeable Antimatter Keys.
  • The Maze: Many levels are mazes of some sort. Darkside Dare, in particular, is built as a traditional maze except that the walls are invisible until you touch them.
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: There are a lot of enemies, but none are really bosses.
  • Nintendo Hard: You start with 15 lives, get another every 1,000 points, and it's still nowhere near enough.
  • One Bullet at a Time: Two, actually. You fire continuously while the fire button is pressed, but no more than two bullets can be on-screen at once.
  • Power-Up: Grabbing a treasure stuns all enemies on screen for a few seconds.
  • Reformulated Game: The Atari ST version is a complete rewrite from the TRS-80 versions, and changes the game radically.
  • Shout-Out: Many.
    • Berzerk: The red Elmo enemies are a reference to Berzerk's Evil Otto.
    • Centipede: The Mahrg Worms are made of segments like the Centipede, and split into two if shot in the middle.
    • Ghostbusters: When a ghost is shot, it is briefly shown as the Ghostbusters "no ghost" logo before disappearing.
    • Hotel California: The Hotel California level is named after the song.
    • Krull: The indestructible glaives are modeled after the protagonist's weapon.
    • Pac-Man: Shadowland is Pac-Man with the characters replaced.
    • Star Trek: Excalibur is a Whole-Plot Reference to the original series.
  • Sliding Scale of Cooperation vs. Competition: Players can cooperate or compete as they choose, or even completely ignore each other, although they must stay in the same 'world', and when one enters or leaves a gate the other must as well. Friendly Fireproof is completely averted, however.
  • Split Screen: How multiplayer is handled. Each player has half of the screen, and they can go around completely separately, although always in the same level. The viewable area is slightly smaller than the single-player game.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The story of various levels is only told piecemeal, by small bits of information the character can pick up as they go.
  • Strategy Guide: A print-on-demand version, made available 20 years after the game's publisher went out of business.
  • Three-Quarters View: The entire game is displayed this way.
  • Unicorn: Kelveeshan is a white unicorn. Depending on how you react to meeting him, you can either gain a black unicorn treasure or a while unicorn treasure.
  • The Wild West: Bomb Factory, Hotel California, and Ghost Town are set here, to greater or lesser degrees.
  • You Can't Get Ye Flask: The text parser is extremely limited. You must use 'GET OBJECT' to pick something up, for example; 'TAKE OBJECT' will not work. However, because the parser is so limited, almost everything you want to do can be done with 'GET OBJECT' and 'USE OBJECT'.