When we think of aliens coming to Earth there are maybe two trains of thought in regards how this might happen. There is the more cerebral path where the aliens try to communicate with us, teaching secrets of the universe. You know, the likes of Arrival or Star Trek. Then there is the other path – one where they just want to eat our brains; Mars Attacks! or Independence Day come to mind. Games generally go down the latter path, mostly as it is more fun and it gives us players the chance to shoot big green aliens. Timothy vs the Aliens has employed this route, but with a twist – and that is found in the monochrome 1930’s setting.
The development history of Timothy vs the Aliens is an interesting one and well worth knowing about. You see, it involves failed Kickstarter campaigns, Playstation ‘collective’ programs, and pure determination. The good news is that it has finally landed on Xbox and this means that Timothy vs the Aliens gets the audience it deserves.
Set in a world of gangsters, black and white glory, and a city called Little Fish City, you play the part of Timothy who in the past was abducted by good aliens; it was they who told him that the bad aliens were coming to take over the world. They gave Timothy a gift, allowing him to bend space and time, seeing the world in slow motion. Years later Timothy is now a prominent gangster of the city – all before a disaster happens and the aliens attack. This is a story of how you now have to save the city and the world against the onslaught. It’s fun and has lots of great tongue-in-cheek references to crazy B-movie alien affairs and over-the-top gangster characters.
The game itself is an open-worlder much like we’ve previously seen in the likes of Stubbs the Zombie. You can go anywhere in the game, but don’t expect to see a city full of life. In fact, it’s pretty empty apart from a few buildings, some folk to chat to, and loads of aliens. You play the game in the third person and the main character can walk, run, jump, and slow down time for a limited period. You start the game with a trusty pistol to shoot, but later on will find access to better weapons, whether you stumble upon them or go about purchasing them from a merchant in the sewers
You run around the city performing quest tasks and these mostly consist of ‘go here and do that’ or ‘collect this’. There is some platforming to be had as well, taking you across rooftops or underground in the sewers. Enemies consist of pesky aliens, all in different forms that will constantly attack. Shooting works well enough and it’s always satisfying to kill the bad otherworldly spawn. Some events are complete with boss battles and spawns of enemies to defeat in a small locked area. You also get the ability to collect cash, items, and specials, found around the city like a Mario game. And best of all, as progress is made you get to purchase a car key which means you can even drive around the city instead of using your feet.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Timothy vs the Aliens at all in terms of gameplay. The problem is, it just feels a bit old-fashioned in terms of the open world and the whole structure and emptiness of the land. But in terms of all the mechanics, they all work well and it is a lot of fun to play. Throughout though, I’ve never been desperate to head back in and play more of it.
Visually the monochrome effect makes it feel like you’re watching an old 1930’s gangster movie. This works superbly, with great lighting and some beautiful environments. The only things of colour are the aliens themselves, but it’s nice that they are humorously put together, B-movie style with jelly-like features and sharp teeth. There are different variations and all are fun in their design and nicely animated. The sound has a great soundtrack with old jazzy numbers that work well with the old-time world.
Timothy vs the Aliens will run for anything up to four hours or so and it’s quite nostalgic to play through it, reminding much of games from the Xbox 360 period. It has a lovely visual language, employing a black and white world to great effect. All the mechanics work very well and there are collectibles to find for the purists at heart. However, it does all feel a bit empty and fails to excite enough for you to want to look forward to your next playthrough.
Timothy vs the Aliens is available from the Xbox Store