A tiny quick talking robot in a world of disrepair, what’s not to like? Well, unfortunately in the case of Tyler: Model 005, quite a lot. And to clarify that rather bold statement I will say this; it’s not the concept of this game that fails it at all, if anything it lifts it. It’s not even the execution which is equally good. It’s the fundamental core of the game that lets it down. But thankfully it does have hope and charisma nether the less.
So now that the big talk is out on the table, I have to say that it was evident from the onset that something was just out of whack with this game. The first thing that I discovered, as any player would, was that there were only two initial graphical settings, high and low. Which I understand smacks a little of nitpicking, but no matter how small the modicum may be, it still spelled the beginning of the end for Tyler: Model 005.
It is true that the graphics for in this title are on the better end of the scale, but they juxtapose noticeably with the lower quality menus — some of which are textured in a wood effect which frankly comes across as the carpenters equivalent of denim on denim. It’s just all too much. Their functionality is good, they are understandable and clear which is a small bonus. It may sound basic, but it’s paramount for the title’s accessibility.
Tyler: Model 005’s does support other languages, and their set up is very straightforward, but the presentation is terribly reminiscent of the video game past. While I played I developed a feeling of nostalgic reminiscence that I just couldn’t shake. I don’t know if it was the texturing of objects, the UI, or the music— which I did very much enjoy — but this game truly felt like I was playing an original PlayStation game with an updated texture mod — updated? Yes. Modern? No. But I really didn’t mind it. Not that I think it was at all what Reversed Interactive, the games developers, had in mind. But I enjoyed the nostalgia all the same. And that’s the main thing, right?
When it comes to sound, this game has it going on, maybe a little too much, and it really lacks execution. The biggest issue, which again is a fault within the core of the game, is its independent volume controls… which are in fact non-existent. This causes a big issue during dialog. One of the game’s best features for me was the voice acting, which grounds the entire narrative, but at times you just cannot make it out. Which is sad because it can be genuinely enjoyable.
So often the constant, and extremely loud, sound effects just drown out the voice acting. The soundtrack, that would have been otherwise good, only makes the issue worse. This could easily have been fixed with the implementation of an independent volume control. The sound was, unfortunately for me, also a somewhat buggy affair. One notable instance being the sound effect of walking in the smallest millimeters of water equated to a sound most akin to someone wadding through an unusually large paddling pool… with flippers on… at great speed. However, the quality of these sound effects themselves are actually very good all things considered; despite the near-constant sound of beeping, buzzing, grunting, and clanking.
On the subject of bugs, I did encounter one which allowed me to fly momentarily while running in the air like a cartoon character who has just run off a high cliff top, only to look down shortly after and plummet at speed toward earth. Which is convenient, as it’s somewhat similar to the feeling that the controls, combat, and movement themselves gave me. They don’t, and I mean this in the kindest of ways, need work… they need a total overhaul.
Normally it’s great to hear that a developer has made improvements to their game, particularly when they involve trickier elements such as movement or combat, and I really wish that was true in this case. Tyler: Model 005 received an update during the latter half of August which claimed to address both those things… but I can’t help but ask the question “How much worse could it have been?” If this is the updated version then I hate to think how the original faired. During combat not only do you have to be perfectly square on to an enemy to have any effect on it, but many of the enemies have extraordinarily large arm spans (something in the water presumably) and this allows them to attack at jarringly long range.
While this game may have a middling amount of keys to push, the layout of which are rather standard, this was yet another point of issue for me. The main issue being that I simply could not perform the cherry-bomb throwing action using the keyboard. An error which was not only infuriating but game breaking also. It lead to near constant tabbing out of the game to verify that my keystrokes were still being registered and that it was, in fact, the games fault and not my trusty keyboard. I can confirm it was not said keyboard. And when I tell you that the character teleports when free-running I don’t know if I should class that as a bug or a blessed feature. But he does do it often.
As I attempted, somewhat in vain, to find the issue stopping me from playing the game I stumbled upon yet another problem in that there is no ability to re-bind keys from within the game itself. While re-binding keys may not be a necessity it did highlight a larger issue… there is no way of knowing what button does what unless you stand on a prompt because there is no menu for it. You have to close and reopen the game to reach the external menu. So when, and frankly if, a player comes back to this game after some time away there is no reference for them to re-discover which buttons do what. Tyler: Model 005 generally lacks any real user-specific customization options — and for me, that is a big issue. A core failing in fact.
But ever the optimist I found a way around the cherry-bomb bug from stopping my progression… a controller! But while this is a much-needed workaround, it is no fix — that’s for sure. in fact, launching a save using the controller made the game freeze three times. While the controller did allow me the use of cherry-bombs… I could no longer lift any object above the characters head using the joysticks. I will note that this particular issue did rectify itself a little over half forty minutes, but meant that I was switching between keyboard and mouse and a controller frequently which is a questionable ask. If I had to choose between the two, or in this case make a recommendation, it would be the controller. But unfortunately, that is no glowing advertisement for the game given that partial controller support worked better than full keyboard support. An interesting issue to say the least.
In terms of the game’s content I wouldn’t have expected, or necessarily wanted, anything more. The premise is good, the character choice is nearing on endearing, and the level design is solid with some interesting things to find. Tyler: Model 005 does rely on collectables. I can only imagine this is to bestow a sense of achievement and progression with the player. There is a focus on character customization, which is a good idea in theory but is disheartening considering the game has a lack of system customization.
The gameplay mechanics themselves are good, even if they lack instruction. The key element of this game is light, which keeps you alive, and it has actually been handled well. It can be frustrating but that is because it is and feels challenging, which is such a plus point. The light sources, once found, are generous — I would recommend that your first move in every new level is to light them all to make exploration easier. Tyler: Model 005 also has a menu for skill customization, which can be a little lag inducing when navigated at any speed, but I would recommend — for sanity alone — that you work to upgrade weapons and combat before anything else.
It is the small touches that make this game good, like the light which emanates from the character model in various colors depending on light level, and it shows that at least some care has been taken with this project. But I can’t help but wonder where the care and attention has gone? This game left early access at the beginning of August. And since then has it has had only one update. And now nothing. None of the much needed improvements have been implemented.
If Tyler: Model 005 was still in early access I could give it a recommendation on the strength, and hope, for better things and continued development. But now that this game is out of early access, and with as many fundamental flaws as it has, I just cannot excuse it… as much as I really would like to. I’m also not sure if these flaws are even fixable given the depth of the issues. If this game had the continued support, maintenance, and nourishment it deserves it could genuinely good. But now is not that time.