Platform: XBLA, Xbox One
Release date: 14/5/14
TheIndieJar: Super Time Force – Review
In Suepr Tiem For…damn it…let me start again.
In Super Time Forks…oh, come on now! Ok, one more time.
Im Syper Yim…AAAARRRRGGGHHH!
Isn’t it frustrating, when you make mistakes over and over again? Super Time Force (yes! Finally nailed it!) takes that frustration and makes it the core tenet of a mindbending puzzle platformer, which will test the analytical part of your brain to almost impossible levels and the emotional part of your brain to well over breaking point.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me…rewind a bit (…somewhere, a solitary bell tolls, as some tumbleweed drifts past) and try to explain exactly what the game is.
On the surface, Super Time Force (Capybara Games, Xbox One Games Store, £11.99) is a pixel-art platform shooter, in the style of Contra, Metal Slug and the recently-released BroForce. You can choose from one of three initial characters – Jean Rambois (pun most definitely intended) is a chaingun-wielding soldier type, Aimy McKillin is a sniper with the ability to shoot through walls, and Shieldy Blockerson (best character name ever?) has – you guessed it – a shield with which to divert bullets or even deflect them back to their owner.
However, much like an iceberg, most of what makes Super Time Force the game it actually is lies beneath the surface. And what lies beneath the surface is a game that knowingly takes inspiration from time manipulation classic, Braid, and builds it out with the kind of character duplication mechanics we’ve seen in games like Cloudberry Kingdom, The Swapper and The Adventures of PB Winterbottom to create something pretty unique and mentally challenging, even in the earliest levels.
In as close to layman’s terms as I can possibly get, here’s roughly how the game works:
1) You theoretically have just 60 seconds to clear each level.
2) However, you start each level with 30 “Time Outs”, which essentially act as a rewind button, similar to those you see in most modern driving games.
3) You can either voluntarily trigger one of these Time Outs yourself, or one will be automatically triggered when you die.
4) Either way, the triggering of a Time Out results in the level slowly rewinding, until such a point as you decide you want to get back into the action.
5) At that point, the action pauses and allows you to select one of the three characters with which to re-enter the game.
6) The wrinkle is that the action around you carries on exactly as it did before, down to your previously controlled character doing exactly what you did with them up to the point of Time Out.
Still with me? Good. If not, then here’s a practical example. One of the earliest examples of when the Time Out mechanic comes into play takes place when you have to shoot a wall away, so you can get to a robot before he kills the first of your potentially unlockable characters (the brilliantly-named Jeff Leppard). Neither Jean Rambois or Aimy McKillin can do this on their own, so you’ll find yourself using at least two or three of those Time Outs to create enough additional firepower to blow the wall and, subsequently, the robot away.
It’s a concept that has absolutely no right to work as well as it does. Bearing in mind the fact that multiple Time Outs could lead to literally hundreds of bullets, heroes and enemies on screen at once, the game could conceivably collapse under the practicalities of its own premise. It’s to Capy’s credit, therefore, that the game never misses a beat, lending the whole thing a pace that’s in keeping with its superficially arcadey roots.
It’s also a game that’s brimming with character, as so many of these sorts of titles do. Eschewing super hi-def graphics for their now-trademark style, Capy have imbued Super Time Force with an over-the-top sense of style. Full of bright colour and trippy music, the game is also full of subtle-as-a-sledgehammer humour and in-jokes that would probably border on the obnoxious for some, but which I personally found to be both really funny and in keeping with the overall tone of the game (for instance, your commander has an eyepatch over both eyes, thanks to an unexplained future incident – this shouldn’t work, but does).
That said, this game won’t be for everyone. If you found Braid to be a little too mind-bending, then this title isn’t for you, as it’s arguably even more difficult, involving multiple characters as it does. In the same vein, if you’re a fan of the likes of the aforementioned BroForce and the Metal Slug series, the puzzle aspect may be off-putting. It’s also occasionally prone to slightly dodgy collision detection, which will be an issue for fans of pixel-perfect shooters.
For a lot of people, this game is going to scratch multiple itches and, as such, is worthy of your £11.99. It’s fast-paced, it’s an interesting premise, it has great charm, and it has tons of replayability built-in, thanks to its speed-run potential. Higly rekomendid.
I mean, highly recommended…
- Tons of charm
- Brilliantly-realised central game mechanics
- Scope for replayability
- It’s a difficult game, straight from the get-go
- The charm is an acquired taste, not suited to everybody
- The collision detection isn’t always great