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Video Game / Timelapse

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Timelapse is a 1996 Adventure Game by GTE Entertainment, which bears a number of similarities to Myst in terms of visual effects, Point-and-Click based game design and use of logic puzzles. It is now available on

The story begins with you receiving a message from an old archaeologist friend, Alexander Nichols, who has spent his entire life attempting to prove his theory that the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Anasazi and Easter Islanders shared a common connection...the lost city of Atlantis. Nichols reveals that he has at last found proof in the form of a mysterious time machine on Easter Island that provides access to major sites of each civilisation at a different point in time, and implores you to join him as he tests it.

By the time you reach Easter Island, Nichols has already attempted to use the machine, and has become trapped in it somehow. With no other way to rescue him, you are forced to use the machine to venture through the various ancient worlds, solving the puzzles in each location and slowly discovering exactly how Atlantis is linked to each. In addition to this, it soon becomes clear that you aren't the only person travelling to each world...


Has nothing to do with the 2014 sci-fi film.

Timelapse gives examples of:

  • AI Is A Crap Shoot: The Guardian. Originally he was a synthetic servant of the Atlanteans who was tasked with looking after the outpost, but mechanical damage gave him a degree of sentience that is conflicting with his programmed orders and has made him erratic.
  • Already Undone for You: Nichols' journal describes him having already discovered and solved the puzzles in each time zone, and taken their respective Gene Pods. But when you arrive, everything's been reset. He later states that the pods vanished after the Guardian imprisoned him in the time gate.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Nichols notes this theory in his journal every now and then and it turns out to be completely true.
  • Anything but That!: If you manage to trap the Guardian in the stasis chamber, he cries, "No, not stasis!" just before being frozen.
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  • Apocalyptic Log: Each world - save for Easter Island - has some form of recording device that gives some insight into how the civilisation in the area rose and/or fell. In Atlantis itself, there is the Chronolog, which contains video messages from the Atlantean Outpost to the Homeworld. Watching it reveals that the Guardian was a synthetic servant of the Atlanteans that became erratic after sustaining injuries while conducting repair work.
  • Catchphrase: The Atlanteans, their Guardian, and the ship's computer end their messages with "Until the Great Reunion", as a reference to the day when they can return to their homeworld.
  • Computer Voice: Heard at the end of the game for the Atlantean spaceship's launch cycle, and its self-destruct sequence.
  • Cryonics Failure: One of the Guardian's messages claims that Atlantis had degraded to the point that the ship's stasis chambers failed and killed all members of the crew. Though his malfunctioning state and the one living Atlantean revived later make this unclear.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Atlantis plays this straight, to the point that crystals are used as a technology unto themselves, from power sources to construction tools.
  • Drop Ship: Atlantis is revealed to be this, with a big Mothership waiting for it to leave Earth so it can return to the homeworld.
  • Escape Pod: The elevator in Atlantis doubles as this, and it also contains a small catalogue of Atlantean technology. This allows you to become rich and famous if you manage to flee Atlantis through it.
  • Eternal English: The video projections in each time period are all spoken in English. Nichols speculates in his journal that they were made using Atlantean technology that allows the viewer to hear them as English.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Your character has no details whatsoever, sans being a close friend of Nichols'.
  • First-Person Snapshooter: You can use Prof. Nichols' camera to take pictures of clues, though running the game on newer systems tends to break this function.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Nichols' determination to prove Atlantis' existence had been shot down over and over by his peers, and he fears that even if he brought back evidence, they still wouldn't believe him. At the end of the game, this trope plays straight if you release him. Inverted with you in the Escape Pod ending.
  • Hearing Voices: God variant. At certain points in each time period, voices will chime in to either give the player clues or taunt them. One example includes a spoken warning when inside the underground portion of Egypt.
    Voice: There is an offering to make, to appease the waiting snake.
  • Human Aliens: The Atlanteans are eventually revealed to be this.
  • Human Popsicle: The Atlanteans used this technology to keep their people alive for vast periods of time. It's revealed that the Egyptians began the process of mummification in a failed attempt to replicate this process.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Atlantean Engineer woken by the Guardian, although his body is never found.
  • Multiple Endings: Several.
    • In several of the bad endings, you get to see a newspaper epilogue which reveals that Atlantis would eventually be discovered by a team of scientists fifty years later. As for you...
      • If you get caught by the Guardian in Atlantis, then you get imprisoned in the timegate in Nichols' place for all eternity.
      • If you shut yourself in the stasis chamber, then the Guardian laughs at you, and you become a mystery for the team of scientists.
      • If you defeat the Guardian, but break the Timegate, then you become trapped and die of starvation, and Nichols remains in his prison. The epilogue also mentions that the scientists are planning to try and release the Guardian...
    • If you defeat the Guardian, you have several options as to what to do with the ship - the timegate will release Nichols and then malfunction, regardless of what you do to it.
      • If you activate the Self-Destruct feature, the ship blows up. Nichols' fate is uncertain.
      • If you activate the Launch Sequence, you can either choose to escape Atlantis via an escape pod - which results in you becoming rich and famous for your adventure - or you can stay on it and travel back to the Atlantean homeworld - which results in the Guardian being repaired and released by the ship's computer, and then imprisoning you for the remainder of the journey.
  • Mummy: Inside the small temple in the Egyptian World. He doesn't pose a threat to you though; instead he just complains if you open the sarcophagus he's in.
  • The '90s: The game opens in "present day", but Nichols' comments in his journal generally set the game to be around the time it was made, and the Escape Pod ending lands you in 1997.
  • Nintendo Hard: The main puzzle in the Egyptian world is a giant combination lock, which has to be solved by deciphering an ancient (and fictional) numbering system, and then working out what the numbers are, based on several very cryptic texts. Thankfully, since each individual lock lights up when it's set right, it's possible to skip this puzzle by just guessing what the combination is.
    • One puzzle in the Mayan world involves you needing to enter in a sequence of thirty or so numbers to unlock a hidden door. The exact code is written down on a piece of paper in the area, but it's not easy to find, and there's nothing to suggest it even exists! Worse, you can't take the paper with you, and the puzzle resets if you leave the screen, so you're forced to write it down (or to take a photo of it using the in-game camera).
  • Power Crystal: One of the Atlantean technologies are energy-storing crystals. The Guardian recharges itself using one of these, and you have to steal it to access the city's control center.
  • Press X to Die: You can activate the stasis chamber with yourself inside, you can blow up the Atlantean colony ship...
  • Pyramid Power: Nichols suspects this as one of the connections to Atlantis between the other cultures. Confirmed when arriving in Atlantis, which has buildings similar in shape to Mayan and Egyptian pyramids, and video messages describing how they helped construct the older ones.
  • Ray Gun: The Atlanteans have a variable Energy Beam Tool, which they used to aid the other civilizations in construction. You have to use this near the end to defeat the Guardian once and for all.
  • Respawn on the Spot: You can be killed or injured by minor obstacles during the game, but you promptly go back to where you were before you made that choice. At least, until you reach Atlantis...
  • The Reveal: Atlantis was created by aliens as a temporary settlement until they could return to their irradiated homeworld, but they were stopped from leaving Earth when Santorini erupted. The four civilizations were given technologies by them, but used them in vary different ways;
    • The Egyptians attempted to replicate the Atlantean stasis pod technology with mummification, but failed, and ended up decimating their resources by wasting time building pyramids and tombs.
    • The Mayans and the Easter Islanders saw the Atlanteans as gods and attempted to impress them; the Mayans via sacrifice - which gradually made the people fear what would happen when the "gods" arrived - and the Easter Islanders via monuments - which led to the destruction of their resources and a civil war. The majority of the Mayans promptly fled into the wilderness when the Atlanteans returned for them, and the Easter Islanders were abandoned once the Atlanteans saw what they had resorted to.
    • The Anasazi alone reacted well to the Atlantean assistance, and decided to leave their barren lands en masse for Atlantis.
  • Schmuck Bait: At the endgame, Nichols asks you to send the Gene Pods and the device you attached them to through the time gate, driven to take them back to the present day as evidence, despite heavy warnings from the Atlantean logs advising against it. If you do put the pods into the portal, it breaks with Nichols still inside, and sets off the ship's self-destruct system.
  • Sequel Hook: "Timelapse 2: The Homeworld" is advertised in one of the endings, but the game was never made.
  • Stock Video Game Puzzle:
    • 15 Puzzle: The door to the Mayan time gate is sealed by one of these. Made even harder by the playing grid getting smaller as images are formed from groups of pieces when set correctly.
    • Rock–Paper–Scissors: One puzzle in the Mayan world is this, except it uses dangerous animals instead. Scorpion poisons Frog, Frog eats Spider, Spider ensnares Scorpion. And you have to win nine times (3 games with 3 rounds each).
    • Simon Says Minigame: Matching a chameleon's colors to similarly-colored tiles on the altar its on.
    • Songs in the Key of Lock: Playing back a sequence of chimes by hitting a group of stalactites with a hammer.
  • Super Breeding Program: To repopulate their homeworld with inhabitants of the four civilisations they chose to aid, the Atlanteans created four "Gene Pods" containing Atlantean genetic material that could be used on any person which would result in their children being super-smart prodigies. Alexander Nichols is revealed to have used them on himself towards the end of the game, and several of the bad endings confirm he would later father a Nobel Prize winning grandson.
  • Superior Species: The Atlanteans viewed themselves as this, and made contact with sufficiently-advanced civilisations across the globe with the intention of genetically enhancing these civilizations to help diversify their own race upon return to their homeworld.
  • Surprisingly Creepy Moment: There are some jarringly disturbing animations scattered around the time periods, from a skewered Mayan monkey head that screeches if you click on it, to an Egyptian statue that talks and briefly becomes filled with snakes through its eyes and ears.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Prof. Nichols mentions feeling increasingly mentally affected every time he uses the time gates, not helped by the Gene Pods he carried being dangerous to the teleporation process. It comes out later that the time gate in Atlantis is unstable, which can turn into a full-on Teleporter Accident if you screw up enough.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The Guardian was programmed with commands similar to these; preventing him from killing or physically harming any human. This doesn't stop him from (inadvertently) killing an Atlantean Engineer by releasing him from his stasis chamber improperly, or from imprisoning people inside the time portal for eternity.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: The Guardian, which resembles a Xenomorph in terms of head shape, and speaks with a creepy robot voice, complete with a glowing red visor that flashes with his speech.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Both you and Nichols, depending on the ending;
    • If you get captured by the Guardian and imprisoned in the timegate, Nichols is freed...and strangely makes absolutely no attempt to go back for you (although it is mentioned that he was oddly affected by the whole thing).
    • If you defeat the Guardian, free Nichols and return to Earth, you become a rich and famous superstar for your travels and for the technology you bring back with you. Oddly, Nichols isn't mentioned at all in the epilogue, despite the fact that it's his discovery and story that you've usurped.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Using this on a rongorongo board on Easter Island reveals part of the code to the first time gate.