Gamers who start up Steam or check out the digital titles available on consoles will be overwhelmed by the amount of pixel art video games. It’s a design choice that eases the burden on resources and forces creativity on game developers and artists. It strikes a chord with gamers who love retro-style visuals and gives a nice feeling of Nostalgia. From Terraria to Hotline Miami, developers are going back to the days of 8-bit and 16-bit games and perfecting what they can be now with modern video game tech.
This is exactly what Capybara Games’ latest project is all about. Dubbed Super Time Force after the playable, whacky team of characters players will utilize in-game, this side-scroller platforming shooter takes the basic gameplay from Contra and makes it more extreme, more fun, and far more complex with an interesting twist.
Super Time Force embraces a common pet peeve of video game design, time limits, and throws the concept on its head. Players control a character, one of three to begin with, with additional characters unlocked in each mission, and must get to the end of a level (divided up into multiple stages) or beat a boss within 60 seconds. But those 60 seconds may take 10 minutes. How? Because players also control time.
The key defining feature of this over-the-top shooter is what’s called “Time Out” and upon death – and you may die a lot – or at any time during the game at the press of a button, players can stop time and rewind to any point in the level and re-insert themselves at that very moment as another version of their selected character or any other character they have unlocked. Then they can play alongside their previous play, helping or building off their previous actions, and as their previous incarnation dies, the new version can pick them up and buff themselves with extra health (since it’s one hit and you’re out) and their ability.
Players can do this up to 30 times or more depending on how many additional Time Outs are picked up during the level. Is the stage’s final boss taking a long time to die? Deal as much damage as possible, rewind a few seconds, do it again with the same character or another. And again, and again, and again. Eventually, there may be 5 or 20+ characters on screen – all played by you in different timelines – increasing the damage output exponentially, so that boss only takes 7 seconds to defeat instead of 30.
It’s even more dynamic than it sounds, since different characters have different abilities. The main three include a character who can block incoming fire with his shield, throwing up a high-damage barrier with his special; a marksman who can bounce rounds off walls and shoot through walls with her secondary, and a character who embraces Contra-style power-ups with a Rambo-like passion, firing a machine gun in three different directions for when there are lots of enemies on screen. The unlockable characters add a variety of ranged and melee attacks, and even some interesting movement options, but we won’t spoil who or what they are.
The game’s narrative is simple in its style and execution. It begins with Colonel Repeatski, who sports two eye patches, coming back in time to the moment his younger self discovered time travel. With the newfound ability, Repeatski’s team (Super Time Force!) are sent on a series of missions through time, to the past, far past, and future to alter time for the simple reason of making things more cool. Want free passes to the game’s equivalent of Medieval Times dinner and theater? Go back in time and get the Holy Grail. Dinosaurs are cool too, right? Let’s stop them from going extinct. Want the latest drivers and plug-ins for your computer or smart phone? Let’s go to the future and get them all!
The humor and quirky dialogue is fun and light, written as if they were text messages or Tweets, but the game’s text-based narrative does occasionally cross the line into goofy and corny territory. Thankfully, the gameplay makes up for this and keeps players on their feet. Each mission/era on the mission select screen features not only entirely different and unique aesthetics, enemies and bosses (from dinos to robots and everything in between), but also feature different gameplay elements. Sometimes it’s all about bursting through walls, or defending a platform, or equipping a jetpack to fly in all sorts of different directions. Managing a multitude of character and character abilities, all while keeping an eye on the clock keep Super Time Force consistently and continuously dynamic, challenging and just plain fun.
At $14.99, Super Time Force is a great buy, and highly replayable as more characters are unlocked. There are badges to be earned for each stage (you can pick exactly what stages/segments of missions to replay) for picking up items and the sort. It’s a unique, polished and challenging adventure that’s absolutely worth your time. And the best part is, completing a stage and re-watching it in real-time. It looks like co-op multiplayer on crack, but it’s all you.
For more check out our 30-minute Super Time Force gameplay walkthrough where we play through the Dinosaur mission and highlight the game’s mechanics and character abilities.
Super Time Force is available no on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Xbox One version for review.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.