Super Time Force

Super Time Force is an ingenious massively single-player shooter that allows you to fight alongside ghostly recordings of your own soldiers.

In the confusing economy of video games, a bullet is often a unit of time. That's definitely the case with Capybara's latest, where a taut 60-second countdown presides over levels that initially seem too large to fit into such strictures. Cast as a motley of clods zipping forwards and backwards through human history, you have a secret weapon on your side, however. You can lead one death-dealing trooper into battle, and then pause the conflict, rewinding the clock and allowing you to lead another death-dealing trooper into battle alongside the first.

Time and space mesh in spectacular ways as you raise an army of tooled-up ghosts who can chew through whatever crosses their path - a lawnmower of death, pieced together one glittering blade after another. Four assault rifles means four times the bullets and four times the speed when it comes to laying on damage; as your headcount and their bodycount rise in tandem, that 60-second timer becomes pliable enough to fit all manner of carnage into it. Super Time Force is a massively single-player game, in other words. It's the last 30 minutes of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey folded in on itself and then set ablaze.

With super time force. Recent posts. Humble indie bundle 17! Aug 11, 2014  Super Time Force has a 'pick up and play' appeal, but gamers will quickly realize that there are lots of controls and strategies to nail down. For example, there's a feature that lets players reverse time, which offers opportunities such as getting a do-over on areas where they failed.

This is a seriously elegant design, but it's mercifully never allowed to feel like that. Instead, each scrolling level is an elbowy 2D pile-up as you fight invading robots and tackle a wide range of pleasantly moronic counterfactual objectives. The cut-scenes are indulgently long and the meme-savvy script often feels simultaneously flat and overworked, but it matters little when there's so much imagination (and discipline) on display where it belongs - in the mechanics.

Each member of the team has their own weapon that comes with a secondary fire mode and as you fill the ranks, you'll learn how best to use these various bits and pieces together. The assault rifle trooper's main attack is feeble, for example, but when charged it can spray a wide cone of death in front of him. Imagine if there were eight of those all spraying at once. Elsewhere, the skateboarding dinosaur (I warned you about the script) can swap out a snap-jawed melee for a bright spray of toxic crud, and the dolphin can.. well, I'm still not entirely sure what that guy's good for.

You'll double-up and combine combatants in a manner that ultimately has more in common with music production than modern warfare

Going into battle with the standard handful of lives is clearly too simplistic for a game with such super-positioned preoccupations. Instead, Super Time Force chucks you through each of its levels with 30 time-outs. These can be triggered at any moment, allowing you to scroll back through the action and then throw another soldier into the mix at a point of your choosing so they can fight alongside the recordings of their colleagues. Recordings feels apt, too. You'll double-up and combine combatants in a manner that ultimately has more in common with music production than modern warfare. Bringing in extra fire power to help your previous selves is kind of like rewinding the tape and laying down another instrument that plays alongside the first.

How you build your mixes is a collaboration between you and the game's relentless pacing. An armoured door might need three shotgun ladies to chew into it at once to beat the clock, while an ambush may require a real division of labour, with the shield-bearer protecting snipers whose charged shot can pass through scenery. Levels tend to be linear, but some will still require you to split off and prioritise different objectives simultaneously. (In a game as head-spinning as this, simultaneously actually sort of means one after the other, mind.) Decisions! How many troops should you dispatch to snag time-extends or the hidden golden shards which give you another precious time-out? How many seconds can you waste collecting new members of the team or clearing the path ahead?

The more you start to make sense of it all, the more these deeper considerations bring a truly tactical edge to what initially looks like chaos. You trigger a time-out automatically when you die, for example, but if you manage to subsequently save one your fallen team-mates by blasting what would have killed them before it's reached its target, you can then collect your frozen ally as a weapon power-up - and that might actually be worth a little temporary sacrifice. Elsewhere, bubbling rifts in space-time allow you to slow down foes when things get too hectic; hitting one at the right moment can change the entire flow of a battle. Even escort-this or defend-that missions are OK here, because they revolve around how you apply your firepower over a complex series of choices. There's real scope for player expression.

It's exhausting, but when it all clicks it's amazing, too. The first time you realise that three seconds isn't enough time to beat a boss by yourself, but it may be enough if there are 15 of you working in unison, this 2D shooter starts to reveal glimpses of the pan-dimensional thinking that brought it all about.

Ultimately, though, Capybara is too smart to let the whole thing devolve into a puzzle game. There's a ragged and almost drunken vibrancy to proceedings that belies the fact that Super Time Force secretly has the soul of a Texas Instruments scientific calculator. Maldita castilla trainer. Treasure's back catalogue is invoked heavily throughout, with huge screen-filling bosses whittled down by nimble skewer-legged heroes across a backdrop of sunsets and temples lit by gorgeously warm colour schemes - and while the game doesn't borrow the delirious mix-and-match weapon system from Gunstar Heroes, it does use the same 360-degree aiming.

It also strings its set-pieces through gloriously unlikely places. You'll hop from one car to the next in a futuristic traffic jam before defending a SWAT truck from oncoming aggressors. You'll hunker down in a patchwork post-apocalyptic coliseum to battle a monstrous lizard who wields a Coke machine as a shield. The intricate geometrical pixel-art weaves wonders with ruined cityscapes and sodden insect-riddled jungles, while the visual creativity that powers everything manages to put new spins on old ideas and offer up entirely new treats.

Atlantis is reimagined as Atlantic City, complete with seedy concessions and crumbling water parks, while one particularly memorable boss is fought over a variety of late 1990s personal website HTML crimes. Dinosaurs spiral broken-backed from your bullets and cyber-cops are blasted naked from their sleek uniforms. Minutes later, you're jet-packing around heaven with your army of ghosts, shotgunning angels to pieces. Time travel, it transpires, is a thing of bewildering intensity, and like the old chestnut has it, as soon as you get directly involved, the whole thing bucks and reacts and the predictability vanishes.

Price and availability

  • £11.99
  • Available on Xbox 360 and Xbox One on 14th May
  • Versions are identical except for the fact that the Xbox One build allows you to share replays

It all comes together in end-of-level replays that edit the manic stop-start ad-libbing of each mission into a single, continuous take. A lone soldier fans out into a mob, Gunstar transitions to Katamari, and it slowly becomes apparent that Capybara actually has something to say about the way that video games experience time. About how they slice it up, jump around inside it, and then put it back together again as they draw order from antic disorder and a evolve a clean racing line over the least promising of terrain. About how, regardless of the mediations and interruptions of a particular playthrough, video game time still manages to flow seamlessly through the mind of the player.

Video games were not the first time machines, then, but they're definitely the most capable, and it's that very capability that's so dazzling here. All art transports you, but only video games allow you to pause, rewind, ponder - and poke your finger into the mechanism. Only video games let you glimpse the past or the future and then get involved.

8 /10

Super Time Force is the dumbest smart shooter around

Game Info
Platform360, PS4, Xbox One
PublisherCapybara Games
DeveloperCapybara Games
Release DateMay 14, 2014

After almost three years of teases, Capy Games' Super Time Force has finally appeared in our timeline.

Though the game was teased in late 2011, it wasn't given a name until 2012. Since then, it's undergone transformation after transformation as Capy played with the thing that sets Super Time Force apart from the retro-crazed re-imaginings of a now departed console generation: time itself.

On the surface, Super Time Force is a familiar mix of old-fashioned aesthetics and elbow-jabbing nostalgia. But Capy has found more than a life raft with their clever implementation of time travel and cause and effect. They've mined a barely touched vein of originality.

Even when jokes aren't sharp enough to cut, they're heavy enough to bludgeon towards a chuckle

Super Time Force follows a team of well-intentioned mercenaries led by Colonel Repeatski, an idiot with apocalyptically poor judgment, as they attempt to 'fix' everything wrong with modern times by blowing things up in the past. The story here is a scaffolding for bad puns, hyper-referential '80s humor, and poop jokes — no, really, they take one poop joke as far as it could conceivably go — but that's not a problem. The puns and references and even the poop feature some pretty sharp writing, and when the jokes don't quite cut, they're heavy enough to bludgeon their way through to a chuckle or two.

The story also provides a framework through which Capy can provide a wild amount of variety and go absolutely berserk with high-concept level design and have it fit. Medieval times followed by a trip to 1,000,000 B.C.? Sure. Why not.

On the surface, Super Time Force looks like a bizarrely-themed but conventionally-styled throwback shooter. You start with three characters, each with a different primary attack and charged skill — one character has a sniper shot that bounces on walls, for example, while charging her attack gives a more powerful blast that fires through walls. Another doesn't have a gun, instead holding a shield that can reflect bullets and a charge move that releases a circle of protective energy. As the game progresses, you can save other heroes from the ravages of time, adding them to the roster.

You'll use these heroes to travel through a side-scrolling, post-retro looking pixel world of dinosaurs, knights, 'blounbots' and more and shooting everything in sight. The mechanics here are 16-bit tight — Super Time Force's controls are tight and very responsive, and Capy does a great job of building a visual vocabulary for the most part. I almost always knew where I could go and which way was the proverbial 'up,' despite some very complicated visuals and slavishly attentive animation.

This is particularly important in light of how unforgiving the worlds of Super Time Force are. Enemies might take several shots to kill, but one hit and your hero is toast. Collectibles often fly up into the air, but if they touch the ground, they shatter for good. And you're on a very strict timer that at first suggests that there's not a lot of time to screw around and explore.

But the time-travel conceit that Super Time Force is built on allows for the game's main mechanical point of differentiation — you can rewind time with the left trigger whenever you want to any point in the level that's already happened and spawn anew as any member of the squad. Alone, this would be a sort of ultimate spin on extra lives in a game, a chance to see where you screwed up and try again. But here's the wrinkle: when you roll back time, your previous lives play out in front of you, grabbing the same secrets, shooting the same enemies that they did when you played them.

The result seems like chaos at first glance, as squadmates shoot over one another, often dying in the same place because you died in the same place. But beneath the pandemonium there's calculated logic. I figured out that I could spend time on one life grabbing hidden collectibles and saving new characters. Then I could rewind all the way back and skip those sections, since my previous self would repeat my actions as pre-ordained for them. There are other inspired touches — if you can 'save' a previous-playthrough teammate from death, often by killing their killer before they have a chance to do their killing, they become a time distorted power-up. Grabbing a character-as-power-up gives you additional hit points, but it also adds that character's charged shot to your own, making for one-person-armies if you play your cards right.

Last Gen vs Next Gen

Super Time force is releasing on both the Xbox One and the Xbox 360, but players who haven't made the jump to next gen shouldn't worry too much. The differences cosmetically are slight — the game runs at a lower framerate and resolution on 360 (don't hurt yourself laughing too hard at the second part), but is otherwise identical visually and mechanically. The Xbox One version does take advantage of the consoles GameDVR feature: hitting the 'Y' button during end level replays will capture it for posterity and, if you choose, upload to Youtube, Onedrive, or Upload Studio.

Rewinding time isn't just a neat gimmick. Despite its shooter foundation, Super Time Force's draconian in-game clock makes it just as much of a speed-run, and the only way you'll clear some levels is to have several lives working together. I often had multiple characters clearing out obstacles and enemies to give one chosen avatar the chance to dive through with just enough time to successfully complete a level. All of these various bits of potential gameplay link to and reinforce one another, giving Super Time Force a singular feeling of cause and effect. I had no idea being the butterfly that flaps its wings and causes a natural disaster could be so satisfying.

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This juggling of causality is even more mandatory for Super Time Force's bosses. Each of these often-massive enemies cannot be overcome by one soldier in the 60 seconds allotted, and there are no extra time pickups. These sections are fun but simple puzzles about compounding your firepower while learning enemy patterns early on, but later, things get more complicated, forcing you to defend and attack at the same time. There's a distinct learning curve in navigating this shift in logic at the drop of a hat, but results in some of the most satisfying, frantic boss fights I've played in a game in ages. Every fight in Super Time Force felt like an accomplishment, even when it was over in seconds in 'real' time.

Wrap Up:

Super Time Force is the dumbest smart shooter around

Super Time Force is probably the dumbest smart shooter I've ever played. The face it wears is the goofy nostalgist that can't be serious for even a moment, sure. But Capy's implentation of time travel and control is inspired enough to shine new light on even its most tired-but-excellently-executed inspirations.

Super Time Force was reviewed using pre-release 'retail' codes for box Xbox 360 and Xbox One provided by Capy Games. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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