When I was younger, I used to love watching old black & white gangster films – the fact they were drained of colour was obviously limitations of the time but it also made them seem more dark and gritty. You would also see a lot of Noire films where there would be inner monologue over the life of a private eye, again all in its colourless glory with tonnes of guns, action and dames! Wild Sphere, the developers of Timothy vs. the Aliens, have clearly taken inspiration from these old movies and added a unique spin to the format – colourful aliens.
So, take a look as I see if Timothy vs. the Aliens is living in a Gangsters Paradise or is as disappointing as the Godfather III…
First of all, before I get into the game, the history of the game itself is interesting so I thought I would tell you a little about that. Back in 2016, Wild Sphere created a Greenlight event and a Kickstarter for Timothy vs. the Aliens, the latter of which unfortunately wasn’t successful (Although I recommend you go watch the pitch videos as they were great!). From there, it appeared the game went quiet and we didn’t really hear anything apart from the odd message from the developers that they are still working on it, even without funding from Kickstarter.
Jump forward to April 2017, Wild Sphere announces on their website that they have joined the PlayStation Talents Games Camp program in Spain which is an open space for the creation of videogames founded by Sony Interactive Entertainment Spain. Under their guidance and support, developers have up to ten months to develop and release their games exclusively on the PlayStation platform – I personally hadn’t heard of this program until looking into the development of Timothy vs. the Aliens but it’s such a cool idea as it allows developers to go on-site and use all PlayStation’s resources to bring their concepts to life.
Fast forward to around October 2017, Square Enix had posted something very familiar in their ‘Collective‘ program (their showcase of indie titles where people vote on what they want to see). It appears Wild Sphere isn’t stopping at releasing their game on PS4. Sure, the Playstation Talents Games Camp only helps developers get their game on PlayStation – which is kinda obvious – but SE Collective states the developer hopes to launch another Kickstarter campaign this year to fund the PC version. The first Kickstarter seemed to fail due to it mostly being a concept with very little in terms of actual gameplay; however, they have now finished the game so it’s going to be a case of only requiring funds to port the game over. Hopefully, this one will be funded, and Wild Sphere is one step closer to sharing their game with as many people as possible.
Finally, fast forward to today, 31/01/2018, Timothy vs. the Aliens has officially released on PS4 in Europe (with an American date TBD). Did it live up to the original pitch? Did it turn out to be fun? Were corners cut to meet the 10-month development window? You’ll soon find out (I know as I’m the one writing the review!) – I just thought it would be interesting to write a bit about the history as its really interesting looking up and following the path an indie title takes to get from concept via live-action segments to a finished game.
Timothy vs. the Aliens takes place in a city called Little Fish City, you take the role of Timothy who is a by-the-books gangster – right down to his waistcoat and trilby hat. There is one thing different about Timothy though, something which no other gangster out there can do – he can bend time and space to slow down the passage of time. Okay, so he isn’t Superman and he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider, he was abducted by aliens who were part of an organisation that was providing planets with the means to defend themselves against an invasion. They warn him that an invasion is imminent for Earth and they gave him an inconspicuous device which allowed him to break this physics barrier, a device which was cleverly disguised as a pack of cards – which at the moment are the only things which are coloured within Timothy’s black & white life.
A few years later, Timothy had managed to become an influential gangster thanks to his new powers, which weren’t technically created for this purpose. However, he had used up all but one of his cards as he had wasted the rest turning Little Fish into a city where gangs and corruption were the norm. Timothy had become so obsessed with his new life that he had forgotten all about the warning the aliens had given him upon bestowing him with his new powers. However, the day came where the aliens invade Earth and it’s now up to Timothy to man up and utilise his powers to save the world from being taken over!
Timothy vs. the Aliens is an open-world style indie-platformer. I say open-world although there isn’t much going on other than the aforementioned alien invasion as the streets are empty and there isn’t another person in sight – other than Elizabeth, the daughter of the Grandfather (the game’s version of The Godfather). The platform mechanics are solid though, I never had any issues with the controls and I always felt 100% in control of my character, which is key in games like this. Whether I was riding planks of wood around in the sewers or jumping around the roofs on swinging platforms – If I fell, it was my fault.
The combat itself also works really well. You have your standard guns; Pistol, machine gun, shotgun, revolver, as well as the ability to slow down time in a Matrix Bullet-time style and the ability to dash to break open crates. Your pistol has unlimited ammo and the other weapons all require bullets – I didn’t find hardly any ammo on the street so if you run out you are basically required to head back to the shop and purchase some more. I found the ammo to be quite expensive though so I spent the majority of my time just using the pistol. The slow-down effect is recharged by killing the aliens and collecting their balls which they drop – they are more like ‘orbs’ but I just thought it was funny how I was collecting ‘Alien Balls’.
The aliens themselves are really well designed. There are five alien types in total and they all have their own colours, attacks and style. Two of these are big enough to swallow you whole if they get close – if they do, don’t worry, tap the R2 button fast and you will cause the alien to explode from the inside out with the added ‘benefit’ of you now being covered in their alien-goo. This serves no purpose but it does colour you in – so instead of being in black & white, you will be bright green or red for a short period of time – mixes things up a little. I never found killing the aliens boring or repetitive as I loved trying out the new weapons and making them explode.
Once you find the ‘car key’, you can jump into any vehicle and drive around the city – this makes travelling from one place to the next a lot faster and easier as aliens don’t seem to spawn whilst in the car. However, it has one major flaw – whilst driving the car your mini-map disappears so you have to keep pressing the TouchPad to bring up the main map to see where you are. I’ll touch on this later as a few things are missing from the game and this was one of the first ones I noticed. I would have liked the city to be more populated with either people or aliens and have the ability to mow them down whilst in the car as at the moment the cars seem a little redundant other than the race you perform and a tool to help you complete a timed mission later on in the game.
The game isn’t very long, I think I had gotten from the beginning to the end within around three hours; however, this is enhanced with a bunch of collectables that are incredibly difficult to spot – in more ways than one. The first collectable which you will come across is the ‘Activist’. This is a good alien, I presume from the original team who gave you the cards, who upon finding will increase your health by one bar. There appears to be six of these to find and they are really well hidden as a few of them were on the roofs and hidden underneath crates (it must have been lonely sat under a crate for however long they were there for!). These little guys are colourful though, so from a distance, they are easy to spot – as long as they aren’t hidden – unlike the next collectable…
The other collectables are hotdogs – it appears Otis, the cities hotdog vendor, knocked over his cart as he ran away from the aliens which resulted in them being scattered all across the map (something tells me this isn’t very believable). Your reward for finding all 60 of these is a key that leads to a secret labyrinth – I can’t really comment on this anymore as I haven’t found all 60 yet as they are also hidden in obscure places. Unlike the Activists though, these hot dogs are black & white – the same as Timothy’s world – so spotting these is a lot harder as they can sometimes be hidden in the shadows or blending in with the background. I would have liked it if you could buy a map or some kind of audio hint when you are near a hotdog as at the moment it’s like Assassins Creed II with its flags all over again!
Okay, so by now you will have seen what the game looks like and OMG it’s so beautiful! I love the contrast between the black & white world and the brightly coloured aliens. The way the game works is everything from earth, so Timothy, the other characters, hot dogs, items and the world, are all black & white yet anything alien is brightly coloured. This works really well and is a great artistic style that has been adapted perfectly to the game. The character models are clean and very rounded – I don’t think I saw a pointy edge on any of them – along with really nice lighting effects which offer real light reflections on the wet floor and reflective surfaces.
Onto the sound – I love the music. I received the Soundtrack with the game from the developer and I was so impressed with it. It really captures the old Noire-style jazz music. The sound effects are as good as you would expect, everything sounds like it should with no dips in quality or issues. There is one thing missing though which I would love for them to implement at some point – voice acting. The game is silent in terms of voices with only text to read. I imagine this is down to the team being very small and having the pressure of only having 10 months to finish the game off; however, a bit of voice acting would have really brought the game to life in my opinion.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Timothy vs. the Aliens even though it wasn’t very long but unfortunately, there are a few things ‘missing’ which I would love to see implemented soon. Due to time constraints, there is no full menu within the game, so things such as brightness, volume, controls and other options can’t be adjusted. This is why I was having difficulty finding the hot dogs, as you can’t increase the brightness to make them pop out more. Due to the lack of a controls menu, you can’t invert your look either – this results in the right stick being ‘normal’, up is up and down is down. I’m hard-coded for inverted look mechanics so it took me a while to get used to it but it would be nice if this was implemented within an upcoming patch. Finally, the last issue was the mini-map turning off once in the car, as I mentioned above – I think this one may not be intentional though.
The game is fully playable and didn’t technically have any bugs or glitches for me, so the above points are issues based on my own personal preference. I have passed all of these onto the developer and they have expressed an interest in offering some of these via an update if time and resources permit them to do so. As a whole though, the game looks great, plays great and is a cool little game to just jump into and splatter alien balls all over the place.
*Update from the dev – they have addressed all of the issues I had – the Minimap disappearing once you get in the car is a bug they hope to fix. They are also looking at the possibility to implement a settings menu for the controls and maybe a way to make spotting the hotdogs easier. So all feedback was acknowledged* *Update in 2021 – The developers have teased the long-awaited Invert Y-Axis option! I’ll update once this is an actual live update*
Timothy vs. the Aliens is a neat little indie title that delivers an entertaining dialogue along with solid platforming and combat mechanics. The contrast of the Black & White setting with the bright, colourful aliens really makes this game a lot of fun to play and as a bonus, because there isn’t any blood, I would say the game is playable by people of all ages. The story is short at around three hours, but the collectables will keep you busy as you search every nook and cranny of the well designed City of Little Fish. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a new 3d platformer to play who wants to go around shooting aliens until their balls (orbs) are all that’s left of them.
The Nintendo Switch Edition
The developers kindly provided me with a copy of the game on the Switch, which I played all the way through the other day. This version has a few positives and negatives. First of all, the ‘issues’ I had with the PS4 release have been fixed – the map doesn’t vanish when you get into a car, you can now invert the y-axis, and there’s a menu to adjust various settings. However, the performance takes a big hit on Nintendo’s portable system, running at around 30fps or lower in more intense combat sections. In comparison, the game is 60fps on the PS4 with some dips, with the PS5 running it via BC playing at a solid 60fps throughout.
I still enjoyed playing it on the Switch but I found it quite tricky to perform some of the more precise jumping segments and aiming at the enemies due to the way the lock-on mechanic works. Personally, I would have liked it if the game was more aggressive on the resolution drop, maybe giving us an option to enable a lower resolution to make the framerate a priority.
Timothy vs. the Aliens£8.99
- - The contrast of the black & white/colour works really well
- - The soundtrack is great
- - Funny dialogue with an interesting story
- - Detailed world to play in with really nice lighting effects
- - Alien balls
- - No voice acting
- - No options menu (yet) for things like control customisation and graphical/audio settings
- - The city is empty of life
- - The game is a little short (about three hours) and feels like a part 1