PAX East 2012: Super T.i.m.e. Force Hands-On
Developer: Capybara Games / Played on: Xbox 360
Capybara Games has carved out a nice unique slice of the game development scene for themselves. All their titles have a signature quirkiness. They all feel like indie games, but with a level of polish reserved for big-budget games.
So it is that Super T.i.m.e. Force, the studio’s newest effort, harkens back to the early 90s, a time of cyber-resistance fighting aesthetics and side-scrolling action games. But it also features some sweet game design, a punishing difficulty, and a ridiculous amount of characters on screen. Super T.i.m.e. Force asks the question: what if game graphics never changed from 1993, but game design did?
When you play it for the first time, you’re going to die. A lot. But that’s not a bad thing; there’s actually an interesting joy from dying. Dying makes the game easier, because when you die, the game rewinds itself by about 30 seconds, the character you just died with comes back as a ghost, and then follows the exact same movement and shooting patterns you just performed with him before he died. You can then respawn as a new character and use this ghost to help you damage and evade the enemies that also respawned in the level.
But the game doesn’t limit this fun feature to just one life. You can create an army of undead soldiers by dying repeatedly. Need a boss taken down in a couple seconds? Die on him over and over so that when you return to fight him, you’re a (super time) force of a dozen soldiers.
While it is a 2D side-scrolling action game, it also becomes an interesting puzzle game. Can’t get through that rapid-fire machine gun position? Respawn as a shield-holding tough guy and set up a moving block so that your machine gunner can get through the area. Enemy giving you trouble on the other side of that wall? Use the sniper class to shoot him through objects while your shield warrior makes a run to the next challenge.
Super T.i.m.e. Force will be testing your reflexes as well as your brain, all the while making you relish in your own failures. Death isn’t a punishment for failure; instead it’s a tool to be used and exploited in completing the game. In addition to the three starting classes I got to try (machine gunner, sniper, and shield warrior), I also managed to rescue a fourth class (rocket trooper) with a clever bit of ghost production to take out an enemy that was about to kill him.
Super T.i.m.e. Force made me use my brain playing a classic video game genre in a way I never have before. That in itself is noteworthy, but the fact that Super T.i.m.e. Force is also addictively fun and relentlessly hard make playing it so engaging. It’s the type of game that is going to lend itself well to speed-run fanatics, but everyone else who likes quirky, creative throwback titles would also do well to check it out.