Times & Galaxy review

One thing Times & Galaxy isn’t short on is imagination. You play as a robotic news reporter fresh off the production line, out to make a name for themselves at the titular holo-paper. Times & Galaxy is well regarded, but readership is on the wane. As an intern, you’re tasked with covering mundane events and occurrences – such as the launch of a ‘hot’ new toy – and must put an appropriate, truthful, spin on stories to grow both your reputation and the paper’s popularity.

The sci-fi setting allows for a rich and diverse cast of humans, aliens and robots – and of course, there’s a unique lexicon to wrap your head around when it comes to the names of species and planets. It’s presented in a similar manner to Brok the Investigator, with side-scrolling environments that feature 3D backdrops and 2D characters, and like that game, it prides itself on being an inclusive experience with a wide mix of genders and races. It’s possible to flirt with most of the cast and let’s say nobody seems quick to shun your advances.

Before that, you’ll need to introduce yourself to the team, explore the spaceship you’ll be calling home for the next few weeks, and take on your first assignment to learn the ropes. The induction is, oddly enough, one of the more dangerous events you’ll get to cover through the game’s 7-8 hour duration, involving a spaceship crash outside a robotics plant. From thereon, you’re covering everyday news pieces, including a cat show and the opening of a new, and oddly specific, greeting card shop.

Investigation sequences last around fifteen minutes, taking place in areas usually spanning no more than a couple of screens. Some locations, such as a courtroom with a cloaked robotic judge, and a shopping mall with parodies of real-life stores, are even reused. That said, often a choice of events to cover is presented, and upon reaching the final today of interning, I’m sure I didn’t get to pick them all. Incidentally, each chapter is also written by a different person, and over time you’ll notice subtle differences in tone and humour.

Times & Galaxy essentially plays like a detective/murder mystery sim – only without the murder part -requiring you to talk to everyone on scene and examine everything, even rummaging through rubbish if need be. Only then will you have a full set of options to choose from, varying from paper selling headlines to a juicy quote. These options both improve and harm your standings with the public – plain fact reporting won’t get you far. There’s a twist to all this, albeit a minor one. Characters will only talk to you once or twice, meaning its vital to ask the most important, or perhaps the most intrusive, questions first. NPCs converse via speech bubbles one sentence at a time. As such, you’re going to be pressing the ‘A’ button a lot before reaching a multi-choice question.

After submitting a story, your performance is ranked and the editor-in-chief will comment how thorough you were – although feedback doesn’t vary a great deal.

Between chapters – spread across cycles (days), of which there are seventeen to play through in total – you return to the spacecraft that’s both your workplace and lodgings. You’re encouraged to talk to the 20+ cast of characters between news reports, discovering their personality traits and backstories. Disappointingly, this means you’ll be spending the bulk of the experience talking to your peers rather than, y’know, reporting. You’ll find your fellow reporters and workers spread across the ship’s several rooms, with fast travel unlocking a few hours in. Most of the human characters feel fleshed out; the robots not so much, seemingly restricted to their logical programming. There’s a gooey alien dog to pet, a fellow intern rival to befriend, a couple of arrogant senior reporters to win over, and a mute robotic arm to converse with using sign language. Running gags change daily, including the ship’s lunch menu in the cafeteria, and the board games left out in the deck room – such as Frontgammon, a floating take on Backgammon.

The only distraction comes in the form of non-catalogued, impromptu, quests. Some are optional, such as helping the photographer find a missing lens, while others are part of the storyline. At one point a botched robot firmware update switches their minds around – and you’ll need to work out who’s trapped in which metal shell. While reporting, too, there are seeds to look out for. These are the one and only collectable present, used to restore the ship’s indoor garden to its former glory. In keeping with the comical tone, these aren’t your typical common garden variety flora, but rather plants such as a literal weeping willow that can’t stop crying.

During the early hours, a couple of upgrades are also bestowed, including a scanner that reveals every interactable item, and a charisma upgrade that unlocks more dialogue options. I’m guessing these were held back from being available from the outset so that things aren’t too convoluted during the tutorial phase. More upgrades would have helped the sense of progression. Discovering the event you’ll be covering next is a decent motivator to keep playing, and that’s despite exploring the spacecraft fully becoming increasingly fatiguing as time passes.

It definitely pays to know what you’re getting into here. Times & Galaxy isn’t a hard-hitting, danger-filled, news reporting sim that’ll have you chasing leads and probing for answers. In fact, it’s remarkably lax on excitement, choosing to be more comical instead. You’re simply tasked with politely introducing yourself to the warped cast of oddball aliens and humans, before trying to discover everyone’s side of the story. The chance to mingle with fellow reporters before heading to the next location makes good on the promise of being a wholesome affair, with characters opening up as time passes. I still wish the storyline was more encompassing and drama filled – I really thought the opening crash scene would be part of an ongoing conspiracy, leading to a huge scoop – but there’s still quite a bit to enjoy and admire here, from its light-hearted tone to the depth of its extensive cast. And you can quote me on that.

Copychaser Games’ Times & Galaxy is out June 21st on PS5, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Switch and PC. Published by Fellow Traveller.

SCORE
7