Whatever happened to the run-and-gun genre? The Contras, the Probotectors, the Gunstars and the Metal Slugs? They were bloody great if you wanted to switch your brain off and relieve an itchy trigger finger, and now they’re almost all gone, *sob*.
Thankfully, the indie and smaller development studios remember how awesome and exciting these games were, are, and still can be. Super Time Force is a wonderful reminder of a forgotten era, brought up to modern standards with a brilliantly executed time manipulation gimmick, alongside some truly chuckle-some humour.
It all centres on the invention of the time machine by Dr. Repeatski. Upon this discovery, he is instantly met by Commander Repeatski, which sparks off a chain of butterfly effects on a large scale, as the Commander’s team, the Super Time Force, go back in time to right the wrongs that the Commander deems unacceptable, like the closure of the local medieval theme restaurant. Yes, STF is incredibly silly and bludgeons you with its many cultural references and sense of humour with tongue firmly pressed against cheek, but as a result, there’s always something to smile about.
In terms of basic gameplay, STF is a simple yet manic run-and-gun, very reminiscent of Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes (arguable the pinnacle of the genre). You have multiple characters, each with their own weapons and more powerful charge attacks, and you must finish every level by reaching the end and occasionally fighting a few bosses. The catch? You have 60 seconds to do it each time, which would be practically impossible if it weren’t for the trick up the Super Time Force’s sleeve.
You see, the STF are able to rewind time. Not only that, rewinding time will record your actions, and replay them as copies once you start gameplay again, and you can do this up to 30 times per level, essentially giving you 30 lives. Using this mechanic will allow you to duplicate yourself and create your own army of clones that replay your previous actions, allowing you to defeat enemies and progress far quicker than one person alone would. Should you die (which is a regularly occurrence as one-hit deaths are in place), that replayed copy will be a collectable power-up, giving your current character an extra life as well as increased firepower.
Imagine if Super Meat Boy replayed all your deaths at the same time. Now imagine that those replays have an influence on the current gameplay, and you’ll have an idea of how utterly chaotic Super Time Force can be. Watching your entire army of duplicates is an awesome sight to behold, especially when taking down a boss. While it does lessen the challenge of the game somewhat, it adds a whole lot of fun to the experience, especially when you take into account the different abilities of the various characters you discover throughout the game.
Of course, with up to 30 clones on screen at once, everything can get pretty confusing in the middle of a firefight, leading to a few moments of frustration as it’s very easy to die the moment you come out of a rewind. The large amount of lives/rewinds remedies this, along with a purple power-up that slows down gameplay when shot. Other collectables are also available, including one that increases your timer by 10 seconds, plus others that are just there for completion’s sake.
The visuals are what I’d call heavy pixel art, featuring chunky sprites with minimal details that help stop the game becoming too visually intensive, while the cutscenes are wonderfully retro, between 8-bit and 16-bit in terms of presentation. As you can imagine from a game oozing with retro charm, the soundtrack is a wonderful symphony of chiptunes that go well with the pixellated insanity on screen.
While STF’s mechanic is so fun and interesting, it’s also the very same thing that severely lessens the game’s longevity and challenge. Eventually, you’ll get past every barrier blocking your way so long as you throw enough enemies at it, so it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to see the end (although there is also an unlockable Super Hardcore Mode that adds a fair amount of challenge). Collectables and new characters are there should you want to get everything, and there’s certainly a little bit of thought required to collect all of them, although I wouldn’t say they were essential to enjoyment.
VERDICT: Super Time Force is definitely a short but sweet performance from Capybara Games. Wearing its pixellated heart on its sleeve, it’s hard not to love everything about STF. As a brand new run-and-gun game it’s a simple one, but add the time manipulation mechanics and it becomes an incredibly refreshing take on an age-old genre. Awesome, dumb fun with a very clever twist.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.