Every so often a game comes out that I know absolutely nothing about, but there’s something about it that makes me want to give it a try. That was the case with Tyler: Model 005 – the new third-person platform adventure from Maximum Games and Reversed Interactive that has just left early access and released on PC and the Xbox One. I’ve always been a fan of the genre, and there was something distinctly old-school about the game that made me want to give it a look.
I regret that now. Whilst Tyler: Model 005 is charming enough contextually, actually playing it felt frustrating and boring throughout.
Tyler: Model 005 puts you in the robotic little shoes of the titular hero, who finds himself powering up during a thunderstorm and left to find out what exactly has happened to his creator. Tyler just so happens to have lost his memory and is only a few inches tall too, so this isn’t an easy task since he’s stuck in a basement full of rats and bugs that are out for robot blood. With the help of another robot named Conrad though, Tyler fights his way through to find out what the heck is going on.
It’s a very cheesy tale, but it’s decent enough. Sure, the game doesn’t have the best writing you’ll see and the voice acting is naff, but there’s something endearing about the world and what’s going on. In fact, the whole concept is pretty charming – it’s just a shame that the execution of it as far as gameplay is concerned is so lacking.
It plays like a third-person platformer with plenty of jumping and climbing to partake in as you work through the world, though some shoddy controls ensure that you won’t have a fun time doing so. Even pulling off simple jumps feels awkward, whilst the climbing mechanics themselves were unpredictable in design – sometimes I’d reach out to climb only for Tyler to completely miss a ledge, often resulting in a fall that’d see me end up dying thanks to a lack of light.
You need light to charge up Tyler’s power in order to keep him alive, with a meter on show that represents his energy. When it runs out it’s game over, with the player able to recharge it by heading to a light source such as the sun creeping through a window or even a lamp. This sort of thing has been done in games before and it’s worked, but in Tyler: Model 005 it just ends up feeling frustrating. There’s a strong emphasis on exploration in the game, but there were plenty of occasions where I’d be put off venturing from the beaten track in fear of running out of light. Alternatively, there were also times where one mistimed jump would mean that you’d have no chance of reaching a light source before dying, which when paired with the cumbersome controls made for plenty of annoying situations.
The combat isn’t up to much either, with it falling into ‘button-mashing’ territory as you beat up all sorts of insects and rodents. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad or anything, but rather that it does nothing particularly imaginative or fun to really hook you in. It just follows almost every other facet of Tyler: Model 005’s design in that it’s just not very fun.
In fairness, Tyler: Model 005 does try to spice things up for the player, with the levelling-up system in particular standing out. There are a lot of things you can upgrade, with Tyler’s stats and skills seeing plenty of improvement throughout the game. It’s not the most intricate of systems, but it does give you the freedom to cater Tyler’s abilities for how you want to play. You can also customise his looks with costumes, with a matching costume actually unlocking new abilities. It’s a neat mechanic that’ll actually encourage you to hunt down these costumes – it’s just a shame that doing so isn’t particularly enjoyable.
Interestingly, there are tower defense-style sections of the game that actually task you with defending an area from an onslaught of bugs coming your way. Now this could be pretty enjoyable, with Tyler not only able to put down traps to stop his foes in their tracks but the simple combat actually complimenting the quick pace of it. The fact that you’re this tiny robot in a massive world makes it neat too, with the aesthetic itself working well with the idea – it’s certainly one of the highlights of Tyler: Model 005. You know what though? You don’t even have to take part in these sections of the game. They don’t play into the story or your progression, but are rather optional sequences that you can take part in if you come across them. It feels so typical of Tyler: Model 005’s design that one of its better features can be completely bypassed, but there we go.
Outside of my issues with the gameplay, Tyler: Model 005 also has its fair share of technical issues. The physics can be all over the place at times, with enemies and objects seemingly bouncing around for no reason. The camera can go all over the place too, which is particularly annoying when you’re already struggling with the controls anyway. Then there’s the loading times, which aren’t only long but also incredibly frequent. Honestly, I don’t like to hate on a game too much, but Tyler: Model 005 simply has so much working against it that it’s hard not to be left frustrated by it all.
It’s a shame too because it’s a pretty looking game. Sure, some of the character models are bland, but the world itself is well-designed, has some good lighting and feels interesting to be a part of. I’m a sucker for playing the role of a miniature hero in what should be a ‘normal’ sized world, and it’s actually presented well in Tyler: Model 005.
Developer: Reversed Interactive
Publisher: Maximum Games
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PC