Su­per Time Force

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft De­vel­oper Capy­bara Games For­mat 360, Xbox One (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now

360, Xbox One

For an or­gan­i­sa­tion called the Su­per Time Force, Capy’s band of trig­ger-happy mercs ex­hibits pre­cious lit­tle con­cern for causal­ity. Per­haps its mem­bers’ cheery ig­no­rance of the po­ten­tial dan­gers of time travel is best il­lus­trated when a land­ing party flat­tens two bipedal rep­tiles frol­ick­ing with a but­ter­fly at the start of a mis­sion whose pur­pose is to pre­vent the di­nosaurs from go­ing ex­tinct. And this is not the only era into which your heavy­footed band of guns for hire clat­ters unan­nounced.

Time travel is more deeply in­grained in Su­per Time Force’s DNA than slap­stick, how­ever. Your team has the abil­ity to use Time Outs to spool back time at any mo­ment dur­ing play, trans­form­ing death from fail state to sim­ple in­con­ve­nience. Bet­ter still, once you’ve turned back the clock, you’ll find yourself fight­ing along­side your pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion, doubling your fire­power. Re­peat this 30 or so times and you’ll have a small army at your dis­posal.

It’s an in­cred­i­bly el­e­gant sys­tem, al­beit one ob­scured by the thun­der­ing chaos of a re­al­time ana­logue to Su­per Meat Boy’s re­plays. In fact, Su­per Time Force con­ceals con­sid­er­able strate­gic depth be­hind its side-scrolling, pixel-art shooter façade.

You start with just 60 sec­onds and 30 Time Outs at your dis­posal to fin­ish each level, but you can col­lect float­ing clocks for ex­tra time and bol­ster your stock of rewinds with Glorbs (golden di­a­monds that fly from cer­tain en­e­mies or ob­jects that you de­stroy). In the first cou­ple of lev­els, this feels gen­er­ous, giv­ing you plenty of time to make it to the end. But soon enough you’ll en­counter en­e­mies that barely flinch as you fling your ord­nance at them while the clock ticks down to zero. Run­ning out of time needn’t mean game over, how­ever. You might only have six sec­onds to slay an end-of-level boss, but a task that seems im­pos­si­ble with one sol­dier be­comes far sim­pler with ten – you’re squeez­ing a minute’s worth of en­deav­our into a frac­tion of the time, and that health bar tum­bles down as a re­sult. It’s not all about fire­power, ei­ther. Ev­ery playable char­ac­ter has their own pri­mary and sec­ondary moves, and each is suited to a spe­cific role. Jean Ram­bois, for in­stance, has a piti­fully weak ri­fle, but hold down the fire but­ton to charge his spe­cial at­tack and he’ll un­leash a vol­ley of three-way fire. Com­bine him with Shieldy Block­er­son, who can ab­sorb bul­lets with his shield or de­ploy a tem­po­rary force­field, and you can use the po­si­tions of safety you cre­ate to keep Ram­bois alive for longer.

Lay­ered runs can cre­ate para­doxes, of course; should you man­age to pre­vent the death of one of your fallen team­mates, they’ll re­main on­screen as a flick­er­ing freeze-frame im­age. When col­lected, this

Su­per Time Force hands you a su­per weapon that feels su­per, and then dares you to try to break the game with it

gives you a hit of ar­mour, and you’ll gain their spe­cial move for as long as you can avoid be­ing hit. You’ll save other lives, too: some bonus char­ac­ters are unlocked through col­lect­ing badges earned through skilled play, but oth­ers are found in pre­car­i­ous po­si­tions within each level. Left alone, they’ll die in a va­ri­ety of amus­ing ways, but if you can get to them in time, they’ll join you.

It’s mind-bend­ing stuff early on, but twitch skill be­comes less im­por­tant as you ac­cli­ma­tise to the game’s rhythm. In time, you’ll con­duct your force like a death-deal­ing orches­tra: in­di­vid­ual runs are per­formed to com­ple­ment the oth­ers, the noise dips af­ter bot­tle­necks and swells in boss crescen­dos, and soloists make for­ays to col­lect bonuses or hold off en­vi­ron­men­tal threats for oth­ers.

Your un­der­stand­ing of this fine art will be tested to ex­tremes when try­ing to col­lect each level’s Looker badge. The Look­ers are in­ter­di­men­sional be­ings who like hang­ing out with re­ally cool people. They’ve been watch­ing you, and think you might make the cut, but you’ll have to fin­ish each level in daunt­ingly short or­der to prove yourself. Such pun­ish­ingly dif­fi­cult speed runs mean us­ing Time Outs wisely, per­haps do­ing a loop with Me­lanie Gibson’s shot­gun to take doors down quickly, then Jef Lep­pard’s bounc­ing-grenade launcher to clear hun­kered-down foes and Lou Don Jin’s lightsaber to de­flect bul­lets back at en­e­mies, cre­at­ing a clear route through which Ram­bois can thread. It feels like Tri­als on foot, re­ward­ing you with a sim­i­lar sense of elated achieve­ment when you suc­ceed, and pro­vid­ing a wel­come change of pace. An in-built leader­board pro­vides even more rea­son to re­fine these runs.

Un­for­tu­nately, such in­ter­leaved de­sign doesn’t al­ways trans­late to boss fights. While lev­els en­cour­age you to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and weapons, many of the ma­jor boss en­coun­ters are best tack­led by mul­ti­ply­ing the same char­ac­ter over and over again. Equally lack­ing in fi­nesse is that move­ment and aim­ing are as­signed to the same stick. It’s far from dis­as­trous, but dy­ing as a re­sult of not be­ing able to stand still can frus­trate. Still, you’re only ever a but­ton press away from rewind­ing and hav­ing an­other go.

None of this is enough to dull the sheen on Capy­bara’s deliri­ous take on the plat­form shooter, how­ever. Su­per Time Force hands you a su­per weapon that feels su­per – one that gives you the im­pres­sion you’ve hacked into the game’s code to gain the up­per hand – and then dares you to try to break the game with it. That it never buck­les, de­spite al­low­ing you to con­tin­u­ally re­write his­tory as a horde of player char­ac­ters and hun­dreds of pro­jec­tiles fill the screen, is noth­ing short of re­mark­able.

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