I remember seeing Super TIME Force for the first time, and thinking, “What in the hell is this game?” The ability to rewind time looked like pure madness. Nevertheless, Capybara, creators of Super TIME Force, bottle up that madness, shake it, then pop the top and spray its goodness all over the player.
Super TIME Force is a 2D action game that combines, and I say this with no intentions of being reductive, Braid and ol’ school action games such as Contra, Mega Man, and Metal Slug. The game has a humor never before seen from Capybara, with puns and one liners galore. At one point, the player even fights a monster made up of feces in the sewers of the lost city of Atlantis. It maintains this humor throughout the entirety of the game as you travel across a myriad of points in time, and Super TIME Force even has a conclusion I should have seen coming, that made me literally laugh out loud. Aesthetically, the game shines with great pixel art and amazingly animated backdrops packed with detail, accompanied by a head-nodding soundtrack.
Sixty-seconds and thirty rewinds; That’s all you get to complete each level in Super TIME Force, and all it takes is one hit for your character to meet their demise. The conjoining of time restraint and certain death makes the game impossible without the inclusion of the brilliant time travel mechanic. It turns a 2D action game into a cerebral (sometimes irksome), strategic experience.
Time travel is done by simply pressing a button and rewinding to a point along the sixty second timeline you would like to return to, however, the character the player was using prior to rewinding will still perform the same actions, at the same time they did previously — this includes any damage they have dealt to enemies, or to the environment of a level. Furthermore, there are a variety of characters that can be accessed during the rewind, which replaces the character the player was previously controlling; each of them have their on set of abilities and flaws — Capybara also went a little pun crazy with their naming conventions, you’ll be playing with characters with names like Shieldy Blockerson, who can (shockingly) only use a shield.
Admittedly, the mechanic is disorienting in its onset. There’s a tutorial that explains how to play the game well enough, but it takes some serious practice to stop using rewind as just something to erase your last death, and begin to use it advantageously. When the player does finally grasp the mechanic, Super TIME Force becomes an ingenious strategy game. For instance, the game tries to trick the player into thinking the lives are not important, given the ability to just rewind and essentially delete your previous death. However, every character has a charge ability that is unique to them, and if a player can save their previous selves from dying they will be able to combine the two characters, thus stacking their charge abilities. I found myself purposefully killing a character in a situation I could easily correct by traveling back, just to stack my powers.
This is where Super TIME Force starts to show its strategy chops, and separates itself from just another 2D action game. Like previously stated, rewinds are valuable resources, even though it does not seem like it in the beginning of the game, and this is even more apparent during the excellent boss fights. Take, for example, stacking charge abilities, which is essential if you want to complete a stage in the sixty-seconds you are given. While these abilities are stacked, the player must inflict as much damage to the boss as possible, then rewind to the beginning of the boss fight and do it again; you’ll lose the stacking of charge abilities, but the charged player will still do damage to the boss, in addition to the damage the character you’re currently playing does. You repeat this loop several times until the boss falls in mere seconds, then you do a dance in your game room as the undisputed master of time and space.
There are also collectibles scattered throughout each level; Shards let the player slow time for a limited period, multi-colored coins add ten seconds to the clock, and Glorb pieces add rewinds to the player’s rewind total. All these can be used to manipulate the game in interesting ways. My personal favorite was using Shards to scout ahead, and clear a path, then rewind and breeze through a section, not worrying about enemies. Glorb are surprisingly fun to collect. Upon killing an enemy, or destroying some object in the environment Glorb pieces will shoot into the air, and if they fall to the ground without the player catching them, they shatter and become useless. It never got old manipulating a level’s timeline in order to position myself in just the right spot to collect an Glorb.
The problem with Super TIME Force is that the mechanics are superior to the level design. Very few of the stages force you to use time travel interesting ways, in fact, the last level in the game is the best showcase for the mechanic. It left me hungry to play more, but I all I could do was go back and get collectibles from previous levels, or improve on my time. Sure that’s fun, but I honestly felt jaded at the games length, and I can only attribute that to how good the last level of the game is, particularly the boss fight. It’s the only thing I can hold against them, and I’m impatiently wishing, hoping, and praying that Super TIME Force 2 releases at some point soon.
Super TIME Force is exceptional in almost every way; the art is beautiful, the tunes are jammin’, the game-play is inventive, and the plot is genuinely funny. My only issue is the level design doesn’t match the how truly phenomenal the rest of the game is. Yet, even with what you think would be a fatal flaw, Super TIME Force is light years ahead of any other 2D action game.
[+Really interesting time travel mechanic][+Everything from the jumping to shooting feels immediate and polished][+Great humor][+Pixel art is excellent][+Soundtrack is bumpin’][-The last level of the game is the best showcase of the time travel mechanic]