In a subdued celebration following Leeds United’s promotion to the promised land, my friends and I weren’t out partying all night around the stadium and streets. Instead we were inside – still drinking plenty – but with Timberman VS to keep us company, a game that only requires three buttons at most to play but when mixed with high spirits, and even stronger alcoholic spirits, makes for a decent party game.
Timberman VS is a casual game where only three buttons are required: using either the left and right buttons, or X and B – or a combination of the two – players are required to chop down large, vertical objects, and rack up as high a score as possible. The third button only comes into play when playing competitively, giving you a boost to temporarily chop down trees quicker.
It’s an endless runner, but instead of running until you can’t, you are chopping down trees.
As well as an endless mode, known as Classic, there is also Hero Mode that grants players a randomly generated target score to achieve. The tree you are chopping down in this mode has a nest of birds at the top but is also on fire, so time is of the essence.
Finally, there is Race Mode, where the competition comes alive. Up to four players locally race against the clock – and each other – to chop down their tree as quickly as possible.
There is a timer across all three modes that keeps players on their toes by not giving them much thinking time. Timberman VS wants to keep gameplay fast-paced, so this timer will steadily decrease in between axe chops; on endless/Classic mode, the speed it decreases even ramps up the higher up the tree you manage to get. This so called ‘chop clock’ is more forgiving on Hero and Race mode, but don’t think you can take things at a leisurely pace.
If all this casual, repetitive gameplay sounds more suited for a mobile phone, it’s because it kind of is, as Timberman has been around on mobiles since 2014. As such, Timberman VS does sometimes look a little odd on TV screens. It is much more suited to mobile screens in the sense that you play it with the screen’s default rotation; on a horizontal widescreen TV there is a lot of dead area around the player, at least in single-player. The multiplayer Race mode does not suffer this same problem; if anything it’s a bit of a squeeze when four players are on-screen at once.
Some elements have been included to increase the longevity of Timberman VS, such as a variety of themed areas. Whereas these are randomly chosen in Classic mode, in Race mode you can select from areas based on Super Mario, Christmas, the circus, the future, the desert and many more. These don’t change the gameplay at all, but at least offer different colour palettes.
The biggest time sink – when playing alone at least – will be unlocking all the different characters. With a full progression and EXP system in place, you have a long way to go to unlock all 68 characters. 13 of these are available from the start luckily. Again, they offer no variation to the gameplay, but a lot of them are fun riffs on popular culture figures featuring the likenesses of Tom Brady, Edward Scissorhands, Darth Vader, Indiana Jones and a few US presidents. Some of these characters even have unique axes they use in line with their likenesses. No prizes for guessing what Darth Vader’s ‘axe’ is.
Timberman VS also comes with 25 achievements, but unlike the casual gameplay some of these are tough! Those that unlock that is, as there are a couple not working as intended at the moment. Ones to watch out for include chopping 10000 logs in total, scoring at least 100 with every character and saving ten birds on any difficulty. Some of the other achievements require specific characters that will take some grinding to unlock first before you can use them.
Timberman VS on the Xbox One is a game that requires very little skill to jump in with, so makes a great party game for an evening or two with friends. When playing in single player, it’s best enjoyed in short bursts like most casual games. But also like most casual games, it has that “one more go” feel to it, and a short burst can quickly become a longer session. Perhaps best of all though is the price. At a miniscule £1.69 – and a space saving 298MB – Timberman VS is a game that everyone should have on their hard drive for when an impromptu gaming night starts up.