Time Bandit reimagines Metal Gear Solid as a darkly comic work sim

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What's the best way to get across an anti-capitalist message in a videogame? I don't know, but forcing you to work a gruelling, tedious factory job in real-time must be up there.

Coming to Steam (opens in new tab) and Itch.io (opens in new tab) later this year, developer Joel Jordan's Time Bandit is a pointed homage to Metal Gear Solid, complete with top-down views and screen-filling codec calls. The difference is that you're not sneaking into fortified compounds full of monologuing eccentrics—you're putting in a full shift at the box factory. 

There's one more catch, too. Everything, from refuelling a forklift to getting a good night's sleep takes place in real time.

Shifting crates? Chopping trees? Compacting trash? That'll take you five, ten, thirty minutes or more. It is explicitly menial and knowingly tedious, and each task drains an energy meter that takes a full eight hours sleep to recharge. Get caught napping on-shift? That's 12 hours behind bars.

Dialogue in Time Bandit

(Image credit: Joel Jordon)

But in between chores, you'll be meeting new characters and figuring out how to steal back the one thing your bosses have taken from you: time. You'll receive phone calls every few (real world) days progressing the story, leading to proper MGS-style heists to nab precious time crystals—suggesting that there may be some interesting twists to the real-time gimmick later down the road.

"Time Bandit was designed to allow players to integrate the game into their lives in a unique way and give them plenty of time to reflect on the ideas it presents to them while they're playing it—and while they're not," Jordon writes. "Time Bandit's sources of inspiration include the atmosphere and storytelling of Metal Gear Solid, the political goals of Brechtian theatre, and the time-based mechanics of Animal Crossing and Pikmin."

Part 1: Appendages of the Machine is due to come out later in 2021, though there's currently a free "Prologue" demo available to download on Itch (opens in new tab).

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.