There have been more action platformers (or arcade shooters, whichever you prefer) being developed and released these days courtesy of indie developers, such as Rain Blood Chronicles: Mirage, Broforce, and so on. But when you come across something like Super Time Force, it brings something fresh and different to the table, which shows that this genre is not outdated just yet.
Super Time Force is a 2D sidescrolling action platformer by Capybara Games exclusively for Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox One. Capybara Games is a 22-strong company known for other titles like Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, both excellent indie titles that gained wide acclaim. The game was the result of a three-day game jam project from the theme “What just happened?”, which resulted in a Contra-style game with time travelers. With a bit more work, they released the final product, which turned out quite well.
You play as a member of the Super Time Force, a team of time travelling soldiers who have been tasked to go back to prehistoric times to save the dinosaurs from becoming extinct. It’s a bit like the movie “A Sound of Thunder”, but less terrible and more fun. You get to fight various kinds of enemies, from cybernetic dinosaurs to tanks that will try to take you out with extreme prejudice. The concept for the gameplay is composed of being able to rewind back through time to come back to a point of the game prior to dying, like a constant save game stream of sorts. You then fight alongside your past self and get past previously insurmountable odds through this form of self-cooperation. It makes more sense if you get to play it yourself.
Like Contra on the Konami code, players have 30 lives to spare to run through the levels, which are full of enemies that shoot projectiles all over the place, giving the game some bullet hell characteristics that provide most of the challenge. While you get to “inherit” gear from a previous life in Rogue Legacy, you get to reincarnate in a way and potentially mend previous mistakes and take out obstacles and enemies that previously gave trouble.
For those who may be skeptical of this game due to its appearance as a retro shooter, but it’s quite different from most of its counterparts. Some may describe it as Metal Slug with a hint of Zelda due to its depth and need for strategy in order to finish a level as flawlessly as possible. Through this mechanic, there is a good bit of replay value as you’d want to go back and plan out a better run. There is a lot of room for creativity and improvement in this game, which makes it a fun experience overall.
Because of the challenge involved though, your first playthrough may not be that smooth at all. The system that is the selling point of this game can also be the main source of frustration as it isn’t easy to tell where exactly you’ll be once you respawn, so you may end up catching a bullet as soon as you return from the dead. It’s quite a sticking point, but it starts getting really once you get the hang of it as you’ll be able to find ways to take seconds off your time and find clever ways to rework your previous run.
It’s one of those games wherein you learn through dying many times, a lot like Rogue Legacy and even Dark Souls. Death seems to have become more than just a failure state in games these days, but an actually gameplay mechanic for learning and progression. Games like this are proving to be a counterbalance to the growing culture of “everybody wins” all over the world that has seen prevalent hand-holding and spoon-feeding, a lot of which has also shown up in games. It’s not to say that dying in this game means that you’re given much mercy, but merely that failing is always an option and you can always learn from mistakes. To get such a lesson from games like this is always quite something to behold.
This is yet another action platformer with a novel gameplay mechanic that has been executed very well. Capybara has said that the game, as well as their upcoming title Below, will be available for other platforms “after some time”. If it indeed is slated for release on the PC and elsewhere, then it should be a worthwhile wait.
Tested in Xbox 360. Final Score: 8.5/10