Growing up, I loved games like Contra and Super C. Sure, they never matched my love for DuckTales or Castle of Illusion, but once I had a buddy over, it was an easy decision; Contra all day. The resurgence of the retro shooter is evident in games like BroForce and Gunslugs, but it's studios like Capybara that push the envelope just a bit further, adding in modern day mechanics to a classic genre with their latest title, Super Time Force.
Super Time Force puts you in the role of a special team comprised of hilariously punny members like Jean Rambois, Aimy McKillin and Shieldy McBlockerson led by the aptly named, Dr. Repeatski. Each member has their own specialty, whether its Jean's charged spread shot attack, or Aimy's bouncing bullets and charged blast that can travel through walls, and even Shieldy's ability to deflect bullets back at the enemy and creating a temporary forcefield. This is just a small sample size of characters you'll unlock throughout your frantic adventure, and each one comes with their own distinct playstyle and weapon.
As the name suggests, Super Time Force is all about time manipulation and affecting multiple realities to your advantage. Watching the trailer almost made my brain melt from confusion, and it certainly took some time to fully grasp the intricacies of the game's time mechanics, but once it clicks, it's absolutely glorious.
Each level gives you a minute to complete it, along with 30 'lives' or time-outs to use. With the press of a button, you'll stop time, giving you a chance to manipulate it backwards however long you'd like. A soldier just killed you with his machine gun shot? Rewind time just before it happens and shoot a charged bullet in his face. This has two positive effects. Firstly, you get to rectify your death and therefore continue the level, but you also just saved yourself in the alternate timeline. This alternate you then becomes a power-up which grants you an extra hit point, as well as allowing you to unleash their secondary charged attack along with yours.
However, you don't have to die in order to rewind time. Sometimes you just need some extra firepower to take out a bunch of enemies, or perhaps you missed an important item and need an additional you to pick it up before it disappears. Or maybe you want to take out a boss within a matter of seconds by constantly rewinding time and adding more and more firepower with each alternate you. How about a co-op partner throughout the entire level? Just rewind the entire level back to the beginning and work alongside your alternate selves, picking up items you might have missed the first time around. There are a ton of possibilities.
Each time you rewind time, you can also switch the character you're currently playing as. For instance, you can switch to Shieldy and run ahead of your previous character and plop down his shield to block the previous kill shot, saving your own life. Or you might find that Jean Rambois' spread shot isn't doing the job, and you need to rely on Jef Leppard's more precise missile shots from his bazooka. Learning to utilize various characters at just the right time becomes a common theme in Super Time Force, and it makes the already hectic shooter that much crazier.
If anything, that might be Super Time Force's one negative point: it can sometimes be a little much. In multiple areas, I've died and rewound time so many times that I had 20 other past mes frantically hopping around that I could barely make out which one of those was the real me. Some might say it's part of the charm, but it more so adds to the frustration of constantly dying over and over. Rewind time enough times, and it starts to look like a replay of Super Meat Boy, except all happening in real time.
Once you finish a level, you get to watch the entire level again from start to finish, however this time without all the rewinds, meaning you'll see all your alternate copies of yourself shooting, jumping and dying all in a singular timeline. It's hilarious and often just as entertaining as actually playing the levels.
The game has enough content to encourage replaying levels, such as picking up all the collectible shards and time anomalies, as well as unlocking the rest of the playable cast of characters.
Super Time Force is an absolutely phenomenal game that's packed to the brim with action, humor, and easily one of the best time-manipulation mechanics I've ever seen in a game. I can't say that I've ever played a game that let me co-op with myself, with myself, with myself and also with myself, until now.