It wouldn’t be too presumptuous to label Dejobaan Games’ Tick Tock Bang Bang a ‘SUPERHOT-like.’ Considering just how similar their central mechanics are, it’s honestly really difficult to talk about the former without comparing it to the latter. After all, it’s also a first person puzzle/shooting game where the central mechanic forces time to only move forward when you do. Unfortunately, it lacks both the sharp visual impact and polished gameplay loop that made SUPERHOT so popular and comes off as a little half-baked as a result.
After jumping into the main campaign, levels in Tick Tock Bang Bang are framed around the premise of playing a charismatic stunt actor in a Hollywood blockbuster of the same name. Though there is something cool about this particular framing device, the execution leaves so much to be desired. It’s about as barebones as it possibly could be with few characters, cutscenes or plot to speak.
In essence, it’s just a big excuse to watch cars crash and spaceships explode. Unfortunately, neither of those possibilities remain particularly fun for long. Levels are short and objectives simple: reach the exit, destroy the boss, activate the bomb, score a bunch of points – you’ve seen it all before. Even more disappointingly, the level design in Tick Tock Bang Bang relies more on trial-and-error and twitch-reflexes than it does on understanding the mechanics or finding a clever solution to a combat puzzle. Levels are either too easy or so far in the other direction it quickly leads to frustration.
There are lots of little elements in the design that contribute to this. Enemies’ firing patterns are inconsistent, it’s not always clear whether projectiles will hit you and the sudden acceleration of time when you begin to move is disorienting and frequently got me killed. There’s little warning when enemies arrive and even less time before they begin to fire on you and while navigating gauntlets of lasers is fun initially, it quickly becomes a chore. It’s kinda disappointing that there’s no real time-trial aspect to the game. Even Tick Tock Bang Bang’s central mechanic of time manipulation can get bogged down by the technical realities of the engine. Before long, stopping time can feel less like a mechanic and more like a gimmick.
If anything stands out as a highlight here, it’s the levels that focus exclusively on the game’s combat despite your weapon options being very limited. You have access to a short-range energy blaster with unlimited ammo and a longer-range rocket launcher that you collect ammo for by dispatching enemies. The ability to milk your control over the flow of time for all it’s worth makes for some fun firefights, at least for a little while. You can aim your shots with perfect accuracy and take control of the battlefield with ease. When you take down a dozen enemies in slow-motion it’s hard not to feel triumphant, though a lack of any sort of replay function here ensures that the sensation won’t last too long.
The main campaign of Tick Tock Bang Bang isn’t all that long, but Dejobaan Games have tried to engineer some replay value through user-generated content. You can create your own levels for other players to complete, as well as design your own robot enemies to populate them. It’s all run through the Steam Workshop and while the tools available to players seem satisfactory, it’s hard to tell if there will be enough of a community around the game to make the most of them.
Tick Tock Bang Bang feels almost more like a mod or tech demo for another, bigger, probably better game than it does a cohesive production of its own. It’s hard to tell where the polygraphic art style ends and the constraints of the engine begin. There’s little variety in enemies to be had, and they almost always come down to some variation of a floating eyeball that shoots lasers. On the audio-side of things, the soundtrack is somewhat-groovy but, like the graphics, it’s completely forgettable.
There’s an overwhelming whiteness to the aesthetic of Tick Bang Bang that, again, doesn’t do the game any favors by inviting further comparisons between it and SUPERHOT. The game primarily uses vibrant colors to telegraph the path through levels – which works well – but it also serves to cover up how generic their textures and environments are. There’s a lot of recycling in assets here as things funnels from one brief and undeveloped encounter to the next. It doesn’t feel particularly polished, nor play-tested. Honestly, it isn’t long before everything starts to blur together.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare each and every aspect of Tick Tock Bang Bang to SUPERHOT. However, it’s hard to ignore the well-known alternative that executes on this same concept so much more effectively. Even so, Tick Tock Bang Bang’s many shortcomings are no less egregious in isolation.
This review is based on the PC version, which we were provided with.
Flawed execution drags down what could have been a fascinating and fun first person experience.