Game: Super Time Force Ultra
Genre: Action Bang-Bang Platformer
On: XBLA, Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/250700/
Everything about Super Time Force Ultra (STFU) is be taken with a dash of fun, from the combat, to the setting, to the dialogue from Commander Repeatski.
(Live – die – repeat+ghost)
What STFU brings to the table is simple. You get to reset time up-to the start of the level and pick another character the next go around. Jump off of a platform getting a face full of bullets? That’s a reset. Causing too many explosion and you stood around like an idiot? That’s a reset
But there’s a plus side to using the time reset. Your past actions get repeated, like a ghost in a racing game. That means, anything that you’re ghost shoots at get’s hit this cycle. Need some extra firepower to kill a mecha-tyranasaraus? That’s a reset. But anything that your past-self collects also carries over to this cycle, as well. Need to side-track and get a shiney new collectable? That’s a reset. As a bonus, if you happen to save your past-self from getting blasted in the jaw, you can use them as a second hitbox and a powerup for your charge attack.
The difficulty with the reset-cycle is that you need to manage your time as well. You only get 60 seconds to get from the beginning to the end of each level with some additional time added by in-level collectables, and with only a few dozen resets allowed per level (also expanded with in-level collectables) you have a set number of blunders that you’re allowed. So the player has to juggle getting collectables, killing all enemies and resetting to get some time back consistently throughout the game. It can be hectic at times, but there’s always a tool for every situation, whether it be using your shield, your explosion, or your wild-jungle kid.
Where the gameplay comes together is during the boss fights. The boss’s movements and fight mechanics aren’t the hardest to pick up, but the time constraint is a biggest shot-clock against the player. You need to kill the boss in such a small window of time, that you’re constantly juggling resetting to help out bring the lifebar down a bit faster. But then the boss switches phases and now your past selves are shooting at the afterimage of the boss that they thought would be in front of them, so you have to build up another army of ghost drones to help you take on the boss. This is where the fun happens, gameplay-wise.
The only regret I had playing the game was not seeing more mobility mechanics being tried out. There was only one at the end of the game where I was forced to going down one path, reset to go down another path to unlock a door for another path. Granted, this type of mechanic is probably a bit played out from Braid, but the time constraint, the enemy management and the maybe a different creativity involving precision shooting from the various ghosts would have really brought the game to feeling on another level. But I can understand it being too much to try and balance, much done well, for a new game. Having the one instance of it in the end just made me want more of it in the game.
STFU never takes itself seriously, to the chagrin of a piece I wrote in August, and that is the game’s best quality. Using SyFy science, our setting jumps from the Land Before Time where we get to blast dinosaurs in their mouths, to the distant Future where a Fifth Element car hop foot-chase begins. It’s filled with enough pop-culture jabs from Jedi to the Thunderdome as to make the game feel grounded in our history, but doesn’t make the these references the overt center-of-attention as to not make the alienate those who don’t recognize where each reference is directly from. It just gives the player a bit a of chuckle anytime they recognize what the source material is from. Similar to how Super Meat Boy reference the classic games between stages but not making these references the set-piece of memorabilia.
STFU is probably one of the better written games that you can not take seriously, and that’s ok. The reasons for going to each time period are ridiculous and probably against some rules of the using time-travel for personal gain. The only two characters that talk are the Commander and the Dr Infinity, but dialogue between them tends to come out like the King of the Cosmos (Katamri Damacy series) with purpose at the best of times and the King of the Cosmos on mission select at the most of times.
The ridiculous lines never detract from the setting. They always keep the game’s lightheartedness in mind. Even at the most tense of situations, the silliness is present to remind the player that the tension is never real because there you’re always a time-travel reset away from fixing it. This philosophy comes up in any tragedy in the game and is a reminder to never take the game completely seriously. “Oops, the planet blew up. Let’s fix that whenever we feel like”
Super Time Force Ultra is definitely worth picking up. If not for the reminder we don’t always need to not take life, gaming, or story so seriously, then for the interesting dynamic of resetting yourself so you can help yourself to not die. Mmm Time-Traveler’s Wife self-blowjob… Such a timely reference to a terrible book. Thanks CAPY GAMES for the atemporal masturbation fanfics to spread across the net!
If you’ve played the game, let me know what you think in the gackity-yak (comments). And follow on Twitter @GIntrospection to stay up to date on new posts.