At first, Super Time Force is simple. You choose a character and progress Contra-style through a level. A jumps and X shoots. You’ve got 30 seconds to get through a stage, but add more time to the clock with each enemy you kill.
However, the game’s hook kicks in when you die. You’re sent back to the beginning of the stage, but you’re playing through with a slightly staggered version of your previous playthrough. They will act exactly as you did during your previous life, taking out the enemies that you destroyed and dying in exactly the same spot. If you kill the enemy that killed you previously, you can “save” your character by touching them where they stop.
Doing so will create a checkpoint and restore one of your 30 starting lives (since the character hasn’t technically died anymore). If you’re killed again, you can simply return to the last checkpoint, and perhaps even use the newly-checkpointed character to save your most recently-killed one!
Now, while these rules are simple, when you combine them with the chaotic, bullet spraying levels, things get interesting.
I started off the first stage with the French supersoldier Jean Rambois. Jean’s normal attack shoots one bullet per tap of the X button, but if it’s held long enough to fill a bar that fills below him, he gets a “spread shot” that lasts for a limited time. While this allowed me to get past the first couple enemies with little problem, I proceeded to leap into a torrent of machinegun fire and died in a dramatic slow-motion animation. Everything I had done proceeded to rewind
I decided to give the explosive-lobbing former roadie from the ’80s Jef Leppard. The longer you charged his explosives, the further they would lob, but a grenade that hit the ground would bounce for a while. While I was able to pull off some trick shots with the arcs of his grenades… I died in exactly the same spot.
I then changed to Shieldy Blockerson who, as his name would suggest, carried a shield as long as I held down the fire button (which I could release to damage enemies with a shield bash). He reflected the machinegunner’s bullets right back at him and allowed me to progress a bit further. Unfortunately, I died shortly after.
Since I’d given everyone else a go already, I decided to give Lady Sniper a shot. While her slow rate of fire made her my least favorite character to play, the replays of my previous lives took out some of my enemies and blocked their fire. However, I didn’t find any real advantage to her weapon, so I switched over to Jef Leppard and finished the stage.
The second stage I played took me back in time, where I had to “unextinctualize” the dinosaurs by destroying the asteroid that wiped them out, which was (of course) secretly a plot by carried out by Super Time Force’s robotic enemies. After a stage where I had to fight off a number of projectile-shooting dinosaurs and giant insects, I fought a gigantic, robotically-enhanced T-Rex.
When I first reached the T-Rex, I was playing as Jean Rambois, and the spread shot gave me more than enough firepower to blow the dinosaur’s robotic helmet away. However, it shot me with the laser gun it was holding before I had a chance to save the sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt-wearing dinosaur in its hand.
Fortunately, I’d gone through the stage so many times by that point (and I had a couple checkpoints saved), I was able to speed back to the boss and I had my character (at that point Jef Leppard) free “Zackasaurus”… who I was able to play immediately upon my death.
Zackasaurus’s standard attack was a simple slash, but he was also able to do dash attacks with a charge. While these were a bit hard to control, I was ultimately able to take down the T-Rex with the help of my previous selves.
The last boss in the demo, the asteroid itself, was much more challenging than I expected. The battle began with smaller asteroids flying toward the screen, and while shooting them would lead to more time, it was hard to find the right time to shoot them. After dying a couple times on these, the asteroid (really a rock-covered robotic spaceship) appeared onscreen. I had to shoot the rocks off of it before shooting the pilot in the middle while avoiding bullets that came from two robots on the side and the asteroid itself. Doing this was easier said than done as I dropped down from 22 to 13 lives. However, by the end of my fight, I had a ton of replays aiding me and took the thing down in a matter of seconds.
Now that I had saved the dinosaurs, the team received a message from their Commander Repeatski (who looks a lot like Sagat with two eye patches and a medal-covered military coat, no I don’t know how he sees). The commander showed them a video that showed the dinosaur president declaring open hunting on humans. Repeatski then admitted “we fudged up.”
Super Time Force will be released for Xbox Live Arcade in 2013.
Food for Thought:
There is a very “rad” tone that permeates the game. For instance, Zackasaurus has the extreme catchphrase “kookabunga.” It’s completely silly, but I thought it fit the game well.