Super Time Force review
Publisher: Capybara Games | Developer: Capybara Games | Out Now
Oddly, for a game about time travel, Super Time Force appears to look exclusively backwards. The game’s retro aesthetic is the most obvious manifestation of this, but it quickly becomes obvious that Capybara Games has plucked influences from across the history of gaming. Time mechanics from Braid and Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time augment the run-and-gun action of Contra and Metal Slug, with a hint of the single-player teamwork of Blizzard’s The Lost Vikings to boot. Even the Super Time Force itself originates from the Eighties, with heroes including such loving pop culture homages as Jean Rambois.
Each stage has the relatively simple goal of getting to the end with one of your Super Time Force members – initially three, but you’ll recruit more – within a 60 second time limit. While you’ll receive some small help in the form of clocks that add ten seconds, the onslaught you face in every stage is overwhelming and death is frequent. Luckily, you enter each stage with a supply of 30 Time Outs, which kick into effect when you die and allow you to rewind time. This will allow you to correct your errors, but that’s only the most basic function.
When resuming play from a previous point in the timeline, you’ll be offered the chance to switch character, allowing access to new abilities – each has individual skills such as rebounding shots and shield generation. Once you’ve picked you’ll be back in control, but a ghost of your previous character will still do exactly what it did when you were in control. You can assist your previous self with extra firepower, shoot in a different direction to clear additional enemies, or even save the apparition by preventing the fatal shot. Doing so is worthwhile, as you can team up with rescued ghosts to gain an extra hit point and combine abilities.
While Time Outs occur on death they can also be triggered at will with a push of the B button, allowing players to implement some complex tactics, though there’s a limit of 30 Time Outs to prevent abuse. It’s in this way that Super Time Force breaks with its focus on the past. Despite the fact that the game’s mechanics have been seen individually in previous games, this fresh combination of them can only have come from a forward-thinking developer.
Super Time Force supports its strong game mechanics with some excellent design. Although you can recruit additional characters by rescuing them from their own deaths, the three initial characters should be sufficient to pass any stage without any great inconvenience – despite the non-linear progression, you’re never punished for attempting a stage before unlocking a particular character. The stages are varied enough to keep things interesting too, with jetpack missions and defence-based missions alongside the standard platforming. This is a clever game then, and one look at the carnage in the real-time replays that follow each stage should be enough to convince you of that.
But Capybara Games has avoided the temptation to use a pretentious aesthetic to highlight the game’s intelligence, opting to use retro charm and comedy instead. If you can see the appeal in gloriously Nineties characters like Zackasaurus, a skateboarding dinosaur who always wears sunglasses, you’re likely to get Super Time Force’s sense of humour. This carries beyond the cutscenes and character designs, too – in one instance, we recruited a new team member by blowing up his TV before The Ring’s Sadako could emerge from it and kill him.
The visuals and sound here are deliberately simple, but they carry their own appeal. Care has been taken to add extra character to each stage, with all manner of appealing background touches for the observant, and the screen is frequently filled with ridiculously large explosions. The game is perfectly competent on a technical level too, rounding off a very solid game.
Still, it throws a lot of information at you to begin with and the tactical opportunities available to you may not always be obvious. Shieldy Blockerson, the game’s defender, is an excellent utility character but we can easily see people failing to grasp his style of play. If you’re the type of player who prefers familiar experiences that can be picked up and played without explanation, Super Time Force is not for you.
For everyone else though, Super Time Force is a game that comes recommended. Capybara Games might have looked backwards for its mechanical influences, but they have been combined in such a way that the game always feels like a brand new experience.