Is Tyler: Model 005 my model 001? We’ll see.

Title: Tyler: Model 005
Platform: Xbox One, PC (reviewed)
Developer: Reversed Interactive
Publisher: Maximum Games
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Cute, clambering, and overall frustrating.
Price: £8/$10 (across all platforms)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

The days of the action platformer appeared to be over with the PS2; we rarely see the likes of the joy Spyro, Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper brought us. They’ve occasionally reared their heads with things like Little Nightmares, who tried to turn their endeavors into something more akin to atmospheric horror than skipping around collecting Precursor Orbs, but as we move into the latter years of the PS4 era, we don’t see a lot of them anymore. Enter Tyler: Model 005, an action platformer that consists a sweet little robot, roaming around his creator’s house, all the way back in the 50s, in an attempt to find out what’s exactly happened, with the house completely wrecked and an eerie silence lingering. Its tried to merge a variety of mechanics – exploration, survival, a heavy focus on story, platforming, and collectables, and the result is something that looks pretty, but quickly becomes frustrating to play.

Make no mistake; visually, this game is stunning, from the lush green of the garden to Tyler’s metallic body, the textures are top notch, and the environments realistic in their 50s glory. The downside to this, however, is that the game is very dark – quite deliberately – as one of the game’s mechanics. Whilst exploring the house, you’re told you need to keep Tyler charged at all times, and this can be done via patches of sunlight, batteries, and crucially, small lamps that illuminate more of the environment. The trouble is, Tyler’s batteries drain in seconds, forcing the first few minutes of any stage into a frantic scramble for the nearest light source, lest you lose all your progress.

The game encourages exploration through its collectables, which range from character backstory to customising Tyler, as well as restoring parts of his damaged memory. There are myriads of these, to the point where they lengthen the game, so it’s puzzling that players seem to be punished for actively trying to explore their environment. In the basement, for example, every time I went in there, I had to rush down the steps and come very close to draining Tyler’s battery, because the stairs took maybe ten seconds to clamber down, and the nearest lamp was at the foot of it. This doesn’t exactly make multiple playthroughs attractive, because even with the upgrades (you gain EXP for killing spiders and wasps) the battery will still drain ridiculously quickly.

The other main focus of the game is the platforming. Almost everything is climbable, from the bookshelves to the armchairs, or even the rafters. Surprisingly, this isn’t done freely, with carefully timed jumps, but instead, you have to hold down the A button (using the Xbox One controller), and let Tyler hop from ledge to ledge. Again, a fine idea in theory, but it’s hampered by a number of things. Holding down A and moving the joystick will result in Tyler “wall running,” instead of jumping where you need to, and if you miss your ledge, it’s back to the floor you go, thankfully without fall damage. The jumping also feels imprecise; some ledges look like they should be reachable, but aren’t, and if you’re trying to jump from the floor to say, a table or a chair, you’ll often wind up jumping in between the legs and not being able to reach the surface itself. Stairs are a nightmare, because unless there’s a convenient board for you to sprint up, the individual steps are a tad too tall to jump up individually, and you’ll be back to a Game Over screen, courtesy of one dead battery.

Again, it felt like I had no time to properly take in my surroundings, look for collectibles, or properly explore, because I was so busy scrambling around for the next light source. The platforming stops being fun when you’re stuck up in the rafters and can’t find anywhere to recharge from; I wanted to enjoy hopping from place to place, rather than blundering about in the dark. This is where a mini map would come in useful, since the hallways are very dark, and using Tyler’s light source makes the battery drain so fast, there’s little point in using it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the lag on the two PCs I played this on (both i7s) was horrible, moreso on my usual one, but even more on the slightly less powerful machine. At best, it was framerate drops, most notably in the hallways, but at worst, even Tyler’s running was slow and awkward, making the already stilted boss fight a chore. The clunky mechanics, combined with the lag, didn’t encourage me to explore or test out new ways to beat the fight, as I assume the game intended, just grimly dodge around and pray it ran into the coffee cups I’d pathetically shoved off the side, since the actual method of picking them up worked sporadically, and then not at all, which wasn’t helped by the dizzying switch into first person view.

There’s a handful of other mechanics (reversing time, cherry bombs to detonate explosions to access certain areas, and the ability to pick up and carry things), but like everything else, it’s stiff and frustrating to play through. The cherry bombs you have in your inventory don’t respawn when Tyler does, so in any boss fights, once the bombs are gone and you die, that’s it – you’re out of luck.

Ultimately, Tyler: Model 005 needs to pick one strength and run with it. If survival is the key, then a heavier focus on scrounging energy sources (much like Five Nights at Freddies did), would be the way to go, with a dash of horror or heavy story focus in there. If platforming and exploration are what it wants to do, then the controls need to be massively tightened up, and the battery draining re-balanced, so collectors can have their fun finding all the secrets. It’s a game that has a lot to offer, with its beautiful art style, whimsical characters, and touching storyline, but when mixed together, the loose controls and artificial restrictions on exploration let the game down.

The Good:

  • Graphics are beautiful
  • Has great potential
  • An original idea, and it’s great to see action platformers resurface.

The Bad:

  • Controls are awkward and frustrating
  • Horrendous lag
  • Battery mechanics need re-balancing

Family Focus

Tyler: Model 005 is rated PEGI 7 and ESRB E 10+ for mild violence. It’s a great game for the kids if they can get past the issues with the controls.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the code provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.