Super Time Force is a game crafted around an idea hatched during a Game Jam. That idea is to give players 30 lives to make their way through side-scrolling bullet hell levels in a limited time. Simple enough. We’ve seen plenty of games like this over the years, but Super Time Force is a little different. Actually, it’s a lot different. It’s got all the running, gunning, and shooting that we’ve found in previous games of this type (see Contra), but the twist is that you can manipulate time. Essentially, every time you die, you play alongside the past versions of yourself until there are an army of your characters on screen, evening the odds.
If crazy or goofy is your thing, Super Time Force has it in spades. The story is completely ridiculous. The characters, weird and funny. Locations, premises, and enemies are absolutely absurd…it’s wonderful. Capy’s humor comes off as unforced and consistent, letting you know pretty quickly that this is a light-hearted affair. I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t laugh out loud, because I did…twice, and broke plenty of smiles and grins. For a game that doesn’t have a spoken word of dialogue, that’s pretty good in my book.
The Super Time Force is a group of characters with different abilities and weapons. The group is formed and lead by Dr. Repeatski to protect the Earth, after the invention of time travel. After saving earth from invasion, the Super Time Force’s next duties are to make Earth a better place by going forward and backwards in time, completing various tasks to do so. And these tasks range wildly, and are comical in nature, but more importantly, they allow for a number of different and unique areas to explore with the Super Time Force. There’s a wasteland from the 90’s that resembles Mad Max, in which you need to rescue Repeatski’s daughter. You’ll be tasked with preventing the extinction of dinosaurs in a prehistoric era. You’ll invade the corporate headquarters of a company named “Googol” to steal all the updates and plug-ins for the internet. There are others, there are actually six different world scenarios to tackle, with 3-4 levels within each, including a boss fight of some sort.
These levels are all beautiful. Every single one of them is impressively well done, with many details thrown in to create a theme for each. While Super Time Force may resemble a retro game, this isn’t what retro games looked like. Sure they were made with pixel art, but this is masterful work by the artists at Capybara. The entire presentation is well done infact. The levels themselves is where you’ll spend most of your time with STF, but the visual quality extends out into the cutscenes and story bits as well. Tying it together is an impressive soundtrack by the chiptune wizard 6955 that co-founded Polytron, makers of Fez.
For a game made of pixel art, Super Time Force is a busy game. There’s always so much going on on-screen, and that’s before your time traveling mates start populating your adventure. Beautiful as it may be, it can get crowded, and if there’s one weakness in this game’s general presentation, it’s that it can be difficult to make out the character you’re controlling in the madness of it all. There are markers that are supposed to help, but when the things are most hectic, it can be problematic.
Super Time Force allows you tackle any level you choose, in any order, but all levels, regardless of orientation, have a set of rules. You have 30 lives to get to the end of the level, and you must do so within a certain time frame. How you get there is up to you. Each time you die, you’ll fight alongside your former self. It’s a pretty straight forward premise that can get pretty complex when the game starts making you utilize all your lives. Super Time Force constantly keeps you moving forward in a race against the clock. Quickly moving around the levels, looking for time extensions, slow motion shards, and items to take back to your time traveling vessel for collecting purposes — all the while trying to navigate through what can, at times, be some difficult terrain.
Each time you die, you can respawn as a different character. You start with three Super Time Force members, and that list will quickly expand as you complete levels and rescue new recruits for your group. The characters are a mixed bunch. There’s a female sniper, a male machine gunner, and shield baring friendly to pick from at start. You’ll have ample opportunity to add diversity to the Time Force. There’s a Jedi, complete with lightsaber attack. A wizard who can cast magic. A rocket soldier whose special ability deals a deadly, you guessed it, rocket attack. There are quite a few to choose from as the game opens up, and they certainly aren’t just new skins. Special and standard attacks function differently for each character, and building the right group of Time Force members is paramount for getting the job done. Once finished with a first playthrough of Super Time Force, you should have access to all of the characters as they aren’t very hard to find. Some characters will even be rewarded to you, just for finishing a level.
Super Time Force Gameplay
A straight first time playthrough of Super Time Force should take around 4 hours or so. Maybe a little more or less if you dig into trying to collect all of the hidden items. Pushing straight through isn’t all that hard in STF. Knowing little about the game I only expended all 30 of my lives a handful of times in my first playthrough. Really, by the end of the first game, you’re just getting acquainted with the possibilities of maxing out your team of Time Force Soldiers in attempt to capture the collectibles of the world. On the standard difficulty level, STF is a breeze. There are moments where the game feels overwhelming, but they are few and far between. Puzzle solving elements are introduced briefly, and there was probably a lot of potential that was left untapped in that regard. Utilzing the time bending mechanic for solving puzzles under the gun, was one of the most entertaining parts of the game. It just wasn’t used enough.
You’ll need the skills you build in the normal mode, because heading back into Super Time Force a second time will open a “Super Hardcore Mode”. Here the gameplay ideas have been tweaked slightly, making it more of a risk to allow you’s to be killed off. As the Time Force squad are killed, they can longer be picked from the character selection screen, unless they are saved. It adds a wrinkle to the gameplay, making choosing a character a more strategic choice.
Super Time Force is a unique game in that it actually encourages you to die. There are plenty of spots in Super Time Force that are measured very well in terms of a timer and the number of players you should have on screen. When the bad guys don’t get you, the clock will. It’s a delicate balance of having the right number of characters on screen, doing enough damage to allow you to progress at a fast enough pace to beat the clock.
Super Time Force is an awesome game from bottom to top. The combination of the impressive presentation and time-bending mechanics left me captivated at times. Fast forwarding and rewinding through my current playthrough to find just the right time to jump back into the action was addictive, and the goofy storyline was enough to keep me invested for the duration. Xbox One players haven’t had too many cracks at indie titles on their new console, but if Capy’s first entry in the ID@Xbox program is any indication of the types of games that will be coming to the platform, the future is bright.
Super Time Force is available on May 14th for the Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Super Time Force
- Available On: Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Microsoft
- Developed By: Capy Games
- Genre: Side-Scroller
- US Release Date: May 14th, 2014
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Super Time Force is an awesome game from bottom to top. The combination of the impressive presentation and time-bending mechanics left me captivated at times. Fast forwarding and rewinding through my current playthrough to find just the right time to jump back into the action was addictive, and the goofy storyline was enough to keep me invested for the duration. "