Super Time Force Ultra - Review
You've finally done it; you've invented time travel! But before you can begin to use it to make the world more better robots start falling from the sky, everything starts exploding, and a future version of yourself appears in front of you. Turns out time travel isn't quite all it's cracked up to be, but that's OK because the Super Time Force is here to fix all the stuff you screwed up and make the world more awesome for everyone! Though it's probably Capy I should thank, not the STF, for giving me some an awesome...time, with one of the most outrageously fun and intensely smart games I've played all year! Super Time Force Ultra (the last word being as this is an updated version of the Xbox One/360 game) is a side scrolling shooter ala Contra, but with an insanely clever implementation of a time manipulation mechanic. The gist of this is you have the ability to rewind time at will, letting you back up and remedy a poorly done section or avoid a grisly death, all while your other character continues to run on their own timeline repeating your entire previous run before you rewound.
What this means practically is you have the ability to stack characters on top of each other, allowing you to clear huge amounts of enemies, collect items, and quickly decimate bosses incredibly fast as dozens of versions of yourself run along the screen at once. Think the replay mode at the end of a Super Meat Boy level, except now everyone has guns.
But the mechanic doesn't stop as just a rewind button, but also allows you to save other versions of yourself by killing an enemy before they get to you, and then stacking your saved character onto yourself and doubling your firepower and lifespan. This not only lessens the blow of death, but actually makes it rewarding and almost encouraged, as well as completely destroying the frustration of a difficult segment or challenging enemy as it's so easy to rewind and do it again.
With so much rewinding and replaying segments it would be easy to have the pacing be absolutely sluggish and repetitive, but STFU accounts for this by giving you but 60 seconds to run through levels (though there are certain collectibles that extend this slightly) making it an all out dash for the end before time runs out. Frequently I'd find myself playing for hours without ever realizing it, as with everything moving so fast and absolutely no downtime it's ever so easy to melt away into the game and have it feel as if no time has passed at all.
STFU IS EQUAL PARTS INTELLIGENT DESIGN AND STUPIDLY ENTERTAINING INSANITY
I realize trying to take this all in makes STFU sounds like an immensely complex and stressful game, but the genius of it is that as soon as you get your hands on it everything is shockingly intuitive. Reading the "how to play" summary before starting the game had my head spinning, but within moments of playing the game everything fell into place and only continued to become more engaging and creative the longer I played and experimented with them.
STFU is incredibly smart yet completely accessible to anyone that picks up the controller, and it's this fact that allows it to break out of the realm of just an interesting idea to being an insanely fun experience. It balances intelligent design with pure joy and entertainment with a deftness that is rarely achieved in any genre, no less one that has been floundering in a pool of uninspired mediocrity for the last several years.
But maybe ultimately what makes STFU so gratuitously delightful to play is the sheer amount of unrestrained fun you can feel emanating from every bit of the experience. From the gorgeously colorful art style, to the silly writing and even more ridiculous scenarios it's abundantly clear how much work developer Capy Games put into the game to make every single second as abundantly entertaining as it is.
It's been far too long since I've played a game for the sole purpose of enjoying the hell out of it, and to be perfectly honest I cannot think of a single thing to complain about or that I feel could be improved upon in Super Time Force Ultra. Capy has achieved excellence in all areas of design, and deserve a significant amount of commendation for what is almost certainly the most impressive game they've made in a long line of critical hits, and I can't thank them enough for finally bringing to PC.
In short I've had the time of my life, and can't wait to do it all over again (and I won't even need a time machine to do so)!