Side-scrolling bullet hell style shooters thrive on nostalgia and some gamers’ fondest memories come from games such as these. Despite this, the formula has grown rather stale over the years and now Capybara Games is here with Super Time Force in an effort to change things up a bit. The question is, were they successful?
A one-eyed scientist is trying to unlock the mysteries of time travel in the 1980s and much to his delight he manages to do so. Though his celebration is quickly interrupted by himself from the future who has already been through numerous wars and somehow lost his other eye. The reason he has come back to the past is because this scientist has now become Commander Repeatski and has since formed the Super Time Force in order to do battle against a robot invasion that will happen in five minutes.
After this ridiculously introduction and the defeat of the robot invaders, players are then able to select from a number of eras to travel to and complete a certain objective which is almost always ludicrous in some way and generally self-serving. The story is full of strange nonsense and ridiculous situations but it actually works in the game’s favor as it provides a delightful sense of humor that fits the odd nature of the in-game characters and the type of outlandishly hilarious enemies you will fight against.
Broken down to its base component, Super Time Force is a side-scrolling shooter with one hell of an enjoyable gameplay mechanic in the form of time control. As you enter into a level you will be given thirty lives to make it through a stage and a set amount of time to do it in. While you venture through a level dodging fire you can kill enemies with a basic attack or hold down the fire button for a charge attack.
While players are only given three characters to start with, the cast of playable characters grows larger as you make your way through the game with some characters almost impossible to miss while others have to be sought out and rescued to join your crew. Each of these characters has a unique attack pattern or special ability with the first basic characters allowing for a large amount of firepower, the ability to block and reflect incoming fire, and shots that can ricochet off of walls or shoot through the environment. However that is only the tip of the iceberg and to try and master some of the stages in Super Time Force players will need to get familiar with all of the capabilities of the cast thanks to the “Time Out” mechanic.
With thirty lives to start out a stage, anytime the player is hit and killed the game will automatically force a time out which allows the player to rewind time either a few seconds or all the way back to the beginning of the level if they so wish. This costs a player a life and the player can also choose to time out whenever they wish and rewind time, though this too costs the player a life.
The thing is, whenever you rewind time not only can you change your character but your previous life is still running alongside you. This means if you start out a stage and die ten times, each time rewinding back to the beginning, there will be ten ghosts running through the level with you, killing the enemies they previously killed and gathering collectibles up until the point where they died. If you happen to kill an enemy before it managed to kill your past life, you can then go to that life and pick it up as a buffer that will provide you with one extra hit point as well as their special charge ability.
The places where this really gets hectic is during the outlandish boss fights where you can have numerous characters running around chipping away at the boss’ health meter while also saving past lives by damaging them fast enough to break their pattern. This might sound a bit complicated at first but it actually is something that is fairly simple to understand and utilize once you get your hands on the title and it is almost required that you make use of this mechanic.
Trying to gather collectibles, save various side-characters, or travel down dead end can often leave you with no time left to finish a level, but if you choose to rewind time then your past life will still run around collecting things while you progress through the stage at a normal pace. This makes the game’s time limit a fair challenge but one that can be conquered.
That being said, there are some issues with the title and it comes down to the point where it is easy to fall back on using the same characters throughout the game without trying to diversify your roster. There are also times where the game can feel a bit easy if you power your way through every enemy in your way through the use of the time mechanics. This is limited in the game’s Hardcore Mode which is unlocked upon completion as players must rescue every one of their past lives or the character they died as will be unplayable for the rest of that level.
It also doesn’t help that there are many times that the game can feel repetitious since the use of the time manipulation is necessary and often areas you traveled through before will need to be done a handful of times. Plus firing at an angle remains a pain thanks to the game following the outdated Contra style aiming mechanics rather than take advantage of the console’s twin stick capabilities.
Visuals & Audio
Super Time Force was obviously designed with a retro pixel sprite look in mind and it pulls that off quite well. This could be an issue since games tend to try to take advantage of nostalgia to squeeze these types of games past fans, but the game’s crazy character roster, the way everything is stylized in the game, and how crazy things can become with all the time clones running around, comes off rather impressive looking and it also helps that the environments and little “cut-scenes” certainly match the feel that the game’s comedy gives off.
As for the game’s background music and sound effects we again are treated to the same retro style treatment of the visuals with a fairly enjoyable chiptune soundtrack keeping the pace with the action but begins to grate after a short while.
Super Time Force takes a well-worn concept and breathes new life into the run and gun style of gameplay with its fun to use time out mechanics. Although $15 may seem a bit much for a game such as this, Super Time Force’s fairly enjoyable shooting mechanics and a great sense of humor provide quite a few hours of enjoyment, even more if you happen to be a perfectionist, as players make use of the time travel to tear through enemies like tissue paper while playing as a dinosaur riding on a skateboard.
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