In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was published. The book, one of the greatest pieces of American literature of the last century, depicts Billy Pilgrim, a man who has become ‘unstuck in time’. He is able to flit along his own timeline, reliving moments from his past, discovering his future, exploring time in a non-linear fashion so that the concept of the ‘present’ ceases to mean much to him.
Super Time Force, for all of its retro graphics and gameplay homages, evokes Vonnegut’s masterpiece and its unique approach to time. It’s also comparable to Digital Reality’s sublime Sine Mora, a game similarly concerned with non-linear time, although mechanically Super Time Force messes with your expectations far more. The elite squad of fighters you’re controlling here are able to rewind back to any prior point in the timeline of each level, reliving past moments, changing outcomes, and teaming up with alternate timeline versions of themselves. If a squad member (there are three to start off with, and sixteen once you’ve managed to find and unlock all of them, which will take some doing) dies after laying down heavy fire on an enemy, their efforts won’t be for naught: rewind the action a bit, pick a new character, and watch as the ghost of your previous efforts assist the figure you’re now controlling.
The systems and mechanics in Super Time Force are extremely unique. You start each level with 30 rewinds and a single minute on the clock: you run out of time rather than health if you don’t play well, and you’ll need to keep an eye out for time pick-ups as you go. A single hit means death, but you can rewind and take a different approach to the situation…and if you manage to prevent the attack that caused a previous character’s death before it happens again, you can collect that character’s ghost as an extra life. This time mechanic also means that if your character travels off the beaten path to go exploring and find a hidden item (of which there are several hidden away in the game, which will delight completionists), it might be worth rewinding back and sending another character along the main path to save time, as the ghost of the first character will still go and collect the item and kill the same enemies you just killed.
When discussing Super Time Force one runs the risk of simply listing mechanics, leaning back and letting their inherent coolness speak for themselves. All of the game’s crazy ideas really work well. This is that rare game that manages to take a truly original idea and develop it well beyond the proof-of-concept stage. All too often games like this end up feeling more like pitches for potential sequels than excellent games in their own right, but Super Time Force finds plenty of great ways to play with its unique concept. Boss fights, in particular, work extremely well – rewinding and sending characters off in different directions to tackle multiple weak points simultaneously is extremely satisfying. Switching between different characters, all with different strengths and weaknesses is great fun too – although you’ll probably lean quite heavily on the machine-gunning Jean Rambois and his bullet-hell spraying charged attack quite liberally, there’s plenty of incentive to vary your assaults.
Super Time Force succeeds because it manages to take all of these crazy ideas and lay them out in a way that makes them seem uncomplicated. When a video replay of your exploits plays back at the end of a level, all of your iterations moving across the screen at once, you’ll marvel at the things you just did, and how simple it seemed. Super Time Force should be commended for taking a complicated concept and making it understandable and hugely enjoyable.
- Buy it
- Wait for discount
- Don't buy