Robots are weird. As time goes by, we become more and more used to seeing them in our lives and on our social media feeds. Whether it’s Boston Dynamics abusing the crap out of robot dogs or that strange little friendly faced ‘Vector’ thing that Facebook seems to think we’d all be interested in 400 times a day, robots are becoming more and more present in our lives. Of course, the worlds of tv shows, movies and video games have had a long relationship with robots, and the modern industry is no different. Today we present Tyler Model 005, a game about a tiny robot with a variety of funny hats.
Tyler Model 005 was developed by Reversed Interactive, a company whose only previous game was a VR title where you have to smash up robots with guns. They clearly have something of a thing going with robots, but the key difference this time around, other than the lack of VR, is the fact that they aren’t self-publishing. Maximum Games, the publishers behind Farming Simulator 17 and The Technomancer, have come on-board to publish Tyler Model 005, which probably helps to explain why this game has made its way to a console this time.
Tyler Model 005 follows Tyler, a small robot who wakes up in an abandoned house when a thunderstorm accidentally charges his battery. Having awoken decades after he was created, he has to journey around the creaky ruins and try to figure out what has happened to his creator and his family. On his way he’ll meet friends and do battle with tons of creepy crawlies while trying to piece together the mystery.
Tyler Model 005 is somewhat hard to categorize genre-wise. A lot of the time it feels like a 3D platformer with big open areas that you have to climb up to solve a variety of challenges. Sometimes it feels like a strange adventure game where you have to figure out what you need to do to continue the story, and occasionally it feels like a game that doesn’t always know exactly what is going on. That last one is mostly because, as well as the main game with its interesting storyline and lovable characters, there are a few game modes that feel very much like they were thrown into the mix purely to pad the game length.
Honestly, the main draw of the game is the story and trying to discover what has happened in the world, as well as the exploration of said world. You slowly pick your way through the shattered memories of the main character and carefully make your way through a dark and broken world that feels far too big for such a tiny robot. There is a certain oppressive atmosphere that comes from being a small thing exploring a human-sized world, let alone a decrepit house inhabited almost entirely by bugs who are more than ready to rip you into pieces.
The gameplay, however, does lead to something of a fall down. Firstly, there is the combat, which is token at best. You can hit enemies with the two triggers, but instead of pressing them, you have to hold them down or you just perform the opening attack of a combo and end up getting killed a lot. Once you’ve sorted that out, the combat just becomes something that you begrudgingly have to deal with before you can continue exploring the cool environments.
The platforming has a few issues as well. You’re supposed to be able to perform wall runs, as well as auto-climb onto ledges so you can make your way around the house. In practise it doesn’t work out quite as smoothly as it’s supposed to. You glitch over ledges, you end up not grabbing onto ledges while wall running and sometimes it’s almost impossible to climb up to certain ledges you need to get onto even if you were just up there earlier. Most of the time, you end up having to brute force your way past the platforming by piling up boxes on top of each other until you can just hop onto where you need to be.
While you’re running around, you also have to worry about your battery life, which empties as long as you’re not standing in bright light. This basically means that you have to constantly stop what you’re doing and jump back into the light to top yourself up a bit, basically turning your exploration into a constant nightmare. It just feels so completely unnecessary to have this feature. You don’t need the threat of enemies along with the threat of constantly degrading power, it just ruins the exploration since you can’t take a look around and really deep-dive into the world because you’ve got to constantly keep an eye on how much power you have left.
Tyler Model 005 does have some redeeming features besides the story. While the combat mini-game feels pointless and a little silly, there are a variety of tower-defence stages that are quite a lot of fun once you unlock the different towers around the world. The characters are quite charming, and it’s fun to be a small thing in a large world, especially once you’ve managed to switch all of the lights on. You can also completely customise Tyler with different weapon skins and various body parts that are scattered around the place, which does help you to feel more invested in the character.
Tyler Model 005 also looks pretty good, especially for an indie game. The world is consistently designed, and despite being a little rough around the edges in places, you can easily tell what pretty much everything is. It’s got a good use of light and darkness, which is pretty important for a game where you have to avoid darkness at all costs.
While visually Tyler Model 005 is well put together, the sound is another matter. The ambient sounds and music are nothing to write home about, but some of the volume mixing is atrocious. This is especially true about the voice acting, at times it is almost impossible to hear what the characters are saying. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is a strange ‘robotic’ effect on all the voices, and it sounds like some of them have even been pitch shifted to disguise similar voice actors.
It’s certainly a strange beast of a game. It has a lot of issues in the gameplay department, but the story and characters are very appealing, and although it’s not enough to make up for all of the faults, it does make for an experience worth having in the end. Having said all of that, the game’s real issue is that it just feels like it needed more time spent on it. It’s pretty short overall, and some of the wording almost makes it feel like there was supposed to be more than the single campaign that the game shipped with, but with the devs moving onto another project, it’s unlikely that we’ll be gaining anything more from this game in the future.
Developer: Reversed Interactive
Publisher: Maximum Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 20th August 2018