Console:  Nintendo Entertainment System

Grade:  F

Publisher:  Milton Bradley

Year:  1990

Genre:  Why mankind will never build a time machine

Milton Bradley is probably best known for their exciting board games, but back in 1990 they decided to try their hand at making NES games. Apparently they were feeling extra ambitious that day, because they didn’t make just any video game, they made Timelord – a game in which their very own company invents time travel and saves the world. Keep in mind that Timelord was one of the first things Milton Bradley made in 50 years that wasn’t sitting on the store shelf next to Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is, to say the least, wildly optimistic to think that making of your first NES game is the next step towards building your board game company into a corporate superpower that will eventually invent time travel. Unless the game in question is as bad as Timelord. Then it’s just completely crazy.

In fact, considering just how terrible Timelord is, it’s probably a good thing that MB hasn’t invented time travel yet. If your first NES game is this piece of garbage, that’s one thing. Suckers like me might waste their money on it, but that’s pretty much the extent of the damage it can do. Messing with the past has more serious consequences. If they were to screw up their first attempt to journey through time goes as badly as they did their first attempt to make an NES game, who knows what might happen.  George Washington could end up losing the Revolutionary War.  To Finland.


Which do you have a harder time believing? The “MB Time Travel Research Center”, or that they actually call your character “Time Lord”?

In classic NES game style, the game steals the plot from a popular 80s movie (in this case The Terminator) and substitutes in an alien race as the enemies (other NES games sometimes used ninjas or Soviets as the default generic bad guys). The basic story is that it’s the future, Milton Bradley has inexplicably invented time travel, and aliens have attacked the Earth.  Unable to conquer us in the present, they have adopted a strategy of altering the past to make present conditions more favorable to them.  It’s up to you to use MB’s time machine to visit the different periods the aliens went to, figure out what they changed, and fix it.  This is all explained to you in a memo included within the game’s instruction booklet, which is actually addressed to “Timelord”, implying that it is, in fact, your job title.

Of course, the most bizarre thing about this letter is that it even exists.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that nobody ever gets memos when they’re supposed to, and even when they do, they don’t pay attention to them anyway.  This isn’t like asking people to put more paper in the printer when it runs out – aliens are trying to conquer the Earth and your company has the only technology that can save us.  That’s probably worth picking up the phone and calling the Timelord about.  Better yet, you might want to just run down to his office (I’m assuming the Timelord would not be stuck in a cubicle) and tell him in person.


Here we are shooting orbs, which contain the very essence of time travel.

The game begins with you (the Timelord!) making your way through the alien infested MB Time Travel Research Center. You might think that any alien race which had the ability to travel across both time and the galaxy would be so much more advanced that they could just kick our ass now, rather than traveling through time to defeat us in the past. But I guess they spent so much time researching time travel that they didn’t have the resources to develop a decent laser gun. Or any kind of armor. The aliens provide little resistance to you, as you shrug off numerous direct blasts from their ray guns and take them on WITH YOUR BARE HANDS. And a single punch doesn’t just kill them, it sends them flying across the screen, presumably back to their own planet.  The aliens might think their time travel ability is going to give them a big advantage, but they’re going to have to go back pretty far in our planet’s history to find a time when stuff won’t punch them.

In spite of this fact, the Timelord ends up chasing the aliens to Medieval England, the Wild West, a Pirate Ship, and finally to the middle of World War II.  It’s hard to imagine why a race of aliens that seemingly die every time someone so much as sneezes in their direction would try to visit some of the most violent and heavily armed periods in our planet’s history, but it’s not for the Timelord to question their methods.  His job is simply to fix any alterations they may have made to our past.  Of course, they probably got killed by a strong gust of wind before they could change anything, so the majority of the game simply involves punching everything you see in the face for no good reason at all.

There’s more to being a Time Lord than just traveling to the past and fighting knights, cowboys, and pirates, however. In each zone, you also have to collect 5 orbs, which “contain the essence of time travel”. And even though the people in these time periods you go to have never heard of time travel, or would have any other use for the orbs, they’ve still gone to great lengths to hide them from you. Probably because they hate you. People have a tendency to do that when you keep wailing on their faces without any provocation.


This is the MB Time Travel Research Center. You know, its not bad enough that they left 11 boxes of radioactive something laying around. They had to go and stack them all uneven too. Nice job MB… If you can’t handle simple crates of radioactive waste, maybe playing around with something as delicate as the balance of time isn’t such a great idea.

The puzzle-solving elements to the game could potentially be fun if there was any kind of rhyme or reason to finding the orbs, but there usually isn’t. You know those old NES games where if you would do something crazy that no one would ever think of on their own, it leads to a secret area? Finding the orbs in Timelord is kind of like that. For example, one orb floats really high in the air, but whenever you’re in its vicinity, you have the ability to double-jump – BY PRESSING THE NON-JUMPING BUTTON.  Almost every single orb requires the use of some similar kind of anti-logic, except for the ones you get from beating bosses. Those are just a matter of having a lot of health and jamming on the fire button really fast.

Not only did Timelord kill MB’s desire to make any more video games, it probably scared the company from branching out ever again. When you consider the lofty aspirations that the delusional minds at Milton Bradley had in mind for their company, this makes Timelord an even more colossal failure. 100 years from now, when we still don’t have the ability to navigate through the Chronosphere, you can pin the blame solely on this damn game. Hell, we’ll probably never even get an updated version of Mouse Trap now.

Thanks for nothing, Timelord.


Look out Timelord! Those flying letter Cs are after you!

One thought on “Timelord

  1. Pingback: Finishing the Week: Issue 83

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