TimeOut is a stylish free noir detective game with a dystopian sci-fi twist

TimeOut is a short film noir-inspired adventure set in a city where time is a currency—and if you run out of it, you die. It’s an astonishingly pretty thing, mixing pixel art with real-time lighting, shadows, and reflections.

Amazingly, the game was developed by just one person. Student Christopher Lee created it as part of his final year project at Singapore’s School of Arts, Design, and Media, and has since released it for free on Itch.

TimeOut takes you on a whirlwind tour of gorgeous, noir-ish environments, including bustling, rain-lashed streets, a dimly-lit piano bar, and a seedy hotel. And as you move from place to place, a story unfolds.

Time loans are a thing in this ruthless temporal economy. If your credit is good, a high street lender will hook you up with a few extra days. If not, shady loan sharks lurking in alleys are waiting to prey on the time-poor.

I’ll let you experience the story for yourself, but it involves the trade of fake time, and ends with a theatrical sequence that owes a lot to BioShock’s Fort Frolic. It’s a pretty wild, fun story, squeezed into about 25 minutes of play.

The world is packed with detail. Descending into a smoky speakeasy, I see tables crowded with gamblers and croupiers spinning roulette wheels. On the street at night, shopfronts glow in the darkness, reflected in puddles.

The combat isn’t great. There are a couple of side-scrolling shooting sections that are a little clumsy and, honestly, not much fun. But it’s a small price to pay for everything else—especially at the competitive price of free.

I would love to see this expanded into a full game in the future, if only to spend more time in that lovely, moody city. You can download TimeOut here, and you should if you like atmospheric, story-led games.

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