Commander’s log: I’ve finally touched down on the fabled city of Atlantis. Year: 9600 BC. Day: Garbage Day. Time: Happy Hour.
The mission is simple enough. My team, compromised of a Jedi couch potato, a Uzi-wielding dolphin, and an actual piece of poo, must find out why the city sank and save it from its watery fate. Should we succeed, Atlantis will be saved and we’ll turn it into an ultra-cool resort off the coast of Florida, increasing the USA’s tourist revenue and securing its place as the greatest country to ever exist in the interest of countries. I am Commander Repeatski, and this is the Super Time Force.
I tried to explain to my girlfriend via text exactly what Super Time Force was and it was at that point I realized that this review was going to be more complicated than I expected. The basic premise is that the Super Time Force is a group of mercenaries who travel through time while exploiting the space time continuum in order to right the wrongs of the past. However, their definition of “wrongs” includes the aforementioned lack of Atlantis as a tourist destination, the relative few dinosaurs in modern times, and the fact that a medieval-themed restaurant is going out of business due to a lawsuit. To claim that this game is insane is a candidate for understatement of the year.
The zany story serves as the perfect backdrop for a completely over-the-top narrative. Almost every single line is absolutely dripping with personality. Be it 80s pop culture references, poop jokes, or some of the worst puns imaginable, Super Time Force manages to be a comedy game that’s actually funny. The writing may not be world class literature, but I found myself giggling like a schoolgirl throughout my entire play-through.
Starting the game, you’ll be able to choose from three different characters. Jean Rambois leads the small arms by dragging around a light machine gun, Aimy McKillin can use her powerful sniper rifle to shoot through objects, and Shieldy Blockerson…well, he blocks bullets with his shield. Each character has regular fire and charged fire options, however, very rarely did I find myself using the regular fire. Holding X for a few seconds charges up an attack that’s usually much more powerful, and spamming those simply fit my play style better.
As you progress through the levels, you’ll be able to save other heroes hidden throughout, each with their own unique abilities to add to the team. I’d love to break down the characters in detail, but I feel like I’d be robbing you of the sheer enjoyment I had when discovering them all for the first time. Still, I can’t, in good conscious, fail to mention what may be my new favorite video game character, the Uzi-toting Dolphin Lundgren.
At the beginning, Super Time Force seems fairly straightforward. You choose your character and set forth through the 2D stage, blowing away anything that comes your way. It’s not until you die or see a collectible fly out of reach that the true genius of the game begins to shine through. By rewinding time, you can add a new character to the mix to fight alongside the ghost of what you just did.
One of the more interesting mechanics is, should you remove the danger that previously killed you, you can collect their stagnant ghost as a power up. This not only allows you to take an extra hit, but also gifts you the ability to use their charged shot in tandem with the character you’re currently wielding.
This adds a fantastic bit of strategy, especially on some boss fights. I could send one character out to attack the left side of the screen until he ultimately met his demise before sending out another on the right side to mirror his actions and double my damage. Additionally, moving a character to the spot where a flying collectible would drop was also a helpful tactic. This is very much the video game equivalent of those drunken conversations you have about quantum physics when you’re trying to impress your date.
The best part about all of this is that, after you complete a level, you can watch all of your attempts play through. It’s very similar to how Super Meat Boy displayed all of your failed attempts at once after each stage; however, here you get to see how you were able to essentially play co-op on your own. It’s really a remarkable thing to behold.
If this all sounds chaotic, then you’re starting to get a feeling of how the game plays out. Near the end of a stage, there may very well be twenty different versions of your play through laying waste to the countryside. Yet it somehow never feels overwhelming. It took me a few tries to really get a feel for the ebb and flow of what Super Time Force was presenting, but then it felt natural to start thinking of how my characters could work together as opposed to trying to do everything all at once.
The very absurd nature of Super Time Force allows for the game to go crazy with its level design. And, since it jumps from the year 198x to 1,000,000 BC and back to 3072, there’s an extremely wide array of areas to explore. The best thing I can really compare it to is Ducktales. I felt that same amount of awe in seeing just how varied the landscapes are in Super Time Force as I did when I first sat down with Ducktales all those years ago in my living room.
Super Time Force really only suffers from two glaring faults, and ironically enough, both are featured around time. First, this isn’t a long game, as I was able to beat it in 5 or 6 hours. Granted, I was absolutely glued to my controller while playing it, so if you’re able to pry yourself away you may be able to stretch it out a bit more. Secondly, I’m also concerned about its replay factor. Once you complete the game you’ll unlock Super Hardcore mode, which makes it so that dead characters cannot be reused on a stage until they are “saved.” While this certainly will be enough to get some players to return, it doesn’t seem like the type of thing that will really grip the average gamer.
Super Time Force is the game that I would have made when I was in the fourth grade. Humor that beats you over the head with its silliness, bloated with pop culture references, and mismanaged time travel galore. Quite frankly, this is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had all year, and flaws aside, I honestly can’t heap enough praise on this title. It’s not a game for everyone, so if you’re looking for a serious experience you should look elsewhere, but if you’re willing to just be silly and be whisked back to the days you spent huddling around the NES as a kid, I can think of no better vehicle.
This review is based on an Xbox One version of the game, which was given to us for review purposes
Super Time Force is an absolutely insane ride drenched with humor and pop culture references. It may be silly, but it's one of the best games available on the Xbox One right now, and is absolutely deserving of your attention