A few weeks ago, I looked at two games which fell in opposite ends of the puzzle/story gradient. Italianate was puzzle-light, and story-forward. Locked In, by contrast, was focused purely on puzzles, with only the most rudimentary plot. It got me thinking about how to balance the two, and I even wrote a jokey game based on an absurdist tilt to the story end.
Often, games use story as the reward you get for your success in advancing via the game mechanics, whatever they might be. In a text adventure, the enjoyment you get from figuring out the puzzles is additive with the pleasure of reading a well-written piece of prose - but that enjoyment is tempered by the frustration of getting stuck. The trick is to find a sweet spot in the middle, which is where Colour Beyond Time pitches itself.
Yes, you do get to sleep in the bed. Cosy.
Storywise, Colour Beyond Time sets its stall out in familiar territory from the get-go. You get an urgent mysterious letter urging you to travel to rural Russia; your old friend has mysteriously disappeared; everyone in this tiny village is a bit odd; there's an ancient meteorite involved somehow - We're in Lovecraft territory. You quickly come to realise that you're on a deadline, with emphasis on the 'dead', so there's a sense of tension straight away. The plot trips along between puzzles as you explore the village and its surrounds. You'll talk with the locals quite a bit, and it's apparent that many of them are up to no good. There are a couple of unexpected twists along the way, and the game even manages to have a chase scene and some pulpy cosmic moments.
There is a small cast of weird characters who you'll spend time talking to to make progress, and the puzzles generally makes sense in the game's context. One puzzle solution gets reused, I solved one only with some trial-and-error, and I did get stuck on a dreaded verb-guessing hitch right at the end. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but couldn't find the precise words to express it correctly. There a few typos in evidence, too, especially in the second half.
But the flaws aren't nearly enough to drag down an atmospheric and interesting game that's got the right balance of difficulty and an engaging plot. To compare with the other two games mentioned, it might not be as fluidly written as Italianate, but the puzzle solutions and general play are more satisfying while still avoiding the frustrations of Locked In's hardcore puzzles. Right in the middle, where it ought to be.
There's a 48k Spectrum version and a +3 version available via https://jbizzel.itch.io/cbt
There are a few different versions, v2.13 is the recommended final version. Part 3 is in a seperate file from part 1&2.
The +3 version has images ( but I couldn't get it to work because I'm stupid )
And if you do want to play my own stupid game, here you go - DAVINCI2.tzx (32.95 kb)