Released earlier this year by Capybara Games, makers of Super Brothers: Swords & Sworcery EP, Super Time Force combines the super-stressful shooting of old school arcade games and adds a rewind mechanic that makes it more of a puzzle game than an actual shooter. Super Time Force throws you into a world where time travel is not only possible, but can be used at will. You’re a member of the titular Super Time Force, under the command of Commander Repeatski – and it’s your job to save the world. You do that the best way you know how: shooting a bunch of stuff in lots of different directions throughout history.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward and hearkens back to the days of Metal Slug and Contra. The difference here, is that you have a 60-second timer in which to complete each level – bosses and all. Fortunately though, you’re given the power of time manipulation, which allows you to pause the game at any point and rewind to any previous point in the current level – even all the way back to the beginning if you so choose. This allows you to find the most efficient path through the level. When you’re inevitably killed, it pops to the rewind screen, lets you go back to a safer point, jump right back in, and kill the enemy before he killed your first attempt. But the cool thing is, you’re not overwriting the playthrough when you rewind. It basically clones the hero, and lets you stack multiple heroes on screen at once. Which is the only possible way to beat most bosses before your 60 seconds is up.
This ends up with the screen just full of dudes sometimes, and it’s really satisfying seeing all the action happening at once. It becomes a puzzle game more times than not as you plan your strategies needed to take down bosses or advance most efficiently.
There are a handful of time periods you have to explore, from the stone age, to the 1980’s, all the way into the far flung future. STF is heavy on the homages and references. The first hero you unlock is a guy named Jean Rambois who has a red headband and a machine gun. Then there’s Jef Leppard and Melanie Gibson. And Dolphin Lundgren. All the characters have unique weapons and special moves, and when a bunch of them are layered in tandem on screen, it’s an amazing sight to see, as are all the different levels. The 1980’s brings us to a Mad Max-esque dystopian wasteland. You engage in a castle siege in the Middle Ages and even get to travel to the city of Atlantis before it sank – which is basically just a water themed amusement park. It’s all presented in super slick stylized pixel art, which is familiar ground for Capybara games. Especially neat are the old school VCR effects as you rewind and fast forward through your gameplay.
The controls are super tight, which is necessary in a precise shooter like this, and it feels great. The game can be a little punishing sometimes as the screen fills with bullets and fire, not to mention all of your time travel hijinks. But once you figure out a pattern and you see a boss getting swarmed by all your copies, it looks really badass and wild.
Each level is filled with a handful of collectibles, and there is a completionist element to the game since you unlock different rewards as you find more of the little blips and bits in the world. There are almost a dozen characters to unlock, and plenty of levels to perfect.
Super Time Force is only $15, and available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, and recently on Steam as “Super Time Force Ultra” which includes more characters from the Valve universe like Pyro from Team Fortress 2 and Zoey from Left 4 Dead. The solid gameplay mechanics, layered on top of a movie geek’s reference heaven, all wrapped in some really slick art and music makes Super Time Force an easy recommend.
Check out a little bit of my gameplay below for a look at the game in action.