Review: Super Time Force Ultra (PS4/PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Super Time Force Ultra
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 611 MB) (PSV 1.6 GB)
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Capybara Games
Developer: Capybara Games
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Super Time Force Ultra is also available on Steam. This is an update of Super Time Force which is available on Xbox One and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Conclusion:
Based on the trailer for this game at last year’s PlayStation Experience, I went into this game expecting some kind of hectic co-op side scrolling shooter. I was sorely mistaken. For example, as a hectic co-op side scrolling shooter, this game fails at having co-op! Also, the game only gives you sixty seconds to clear a level! That’s not enough time to get through unless you jump past all the enemies. So much for shooting! Clearly a bad game.

Score:
0.0

Wait, what? If these things aren’t true about the game, maybe I should reevaluate. And why am I at the conclusion!? Guess I need to go back in time!

Gameplay:
Super Time Force Ultra (STFU), an updated version of the game Super Time Force, kicks off when a scientist creates a time machine. The second he finishes, the world is overrun by time traveling robots. Fortunately, the scientist’s future self is there to save the world with the help of the Super Time Force.

As indicated before, STFU is not so much a side scrolling shooter as it is a side scrolling puzzle game with some shooty bits mixed in. The main mechanic in the game is the ability to rewind time. Rewinding time not only lets the player make different choices, but it leaves their previous self around doing whatever they did in the previous timeline.

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Similar to the time-based puzzles of the recent Ratchet and Clank game, the time mechanic means multiple copies of the player running around doing stuff. Where the puzzle comes in is making that stuff count. This is because the levels have a limited amount of time, and the player a limited amount of rewinds.

For example, there might be a junction where there’s a door down a path to the left and a switch down a path to the right. Going right then left to hit the switch and then get to the door would waste a lot of time. Instead, run and hit the switch, then rewind to the junction and run to the door. The other timeline self will open the door for the current self.

… the key to doing well …
Where the game brings in the shooty bits is that previous timeline ‘selves’ still shoot and run where they did when the player was controlling them. So they can also clear out enemies before the current ‘self’ encounters them, giving the player more time to run towards the end of the level.

However, making sure to shoot the proper enemies and remembering what the past ‘selves’ will do is the key to doing well. Enemies all tend to follow set patterns but will often ‘activate’ when first seeing the player. So for example, getting to an enemy before a past self gets to and shoots that enemy may make them jump before getting shot thereby negating the previous ‘self’ and potentially screwing up the player. Remembering which past ‘selves’ are important and where they go is paramount to getting through STFU.

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This is even more apparent with bosses. Most bosses are damage sponges and will change phases after taking enough damage. I screwed myself up a couple of times while I was in a later phase of the boss by going too far back in time and shooting the boss, making him enter a new phase earlier than he had before. This would make his movements different than before and make all my previous ‘selves’ miss their shots.

Fortunately then, STFU is pretty lenient. The biggest constraint is the sixty second timer on the stages but the game gives a lot of rewinds and there are time-extending and time-slowing pick-ups available as well. Getting through the main campaign is brain-wracking but still easy enough that seasoned gamers should be able to push through with some practice, even on the hard mode that unlocks after beating the game.

… pretty beefy for a small download title …
Where the puzzles really take shape are the in the HellaDeck. These are more tailor-made puzzle rooms with a very limited number of rewinds and a shorter amount of time in which to finish the level. Players who think they’ve got a strong handle on the mechanics can come here to be proven wrong.

Between the HellaDeck and the main levels, STFU seems pretty beefy for a small download title. The main story took me about four to five hours I believe, and there are plenty of hidden collectables in them plus a hard mode for even more replayability.

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One thing I didn’t mention yet is that there are also multiple characters and each time the player rewinds they can switch between characters. Finding the hidden collectables unlocks even more characters, including the PlayStation exclusive characters Sir Galahad from The Order: 1886, The Traveler from Journey, and Shuhei Yoshida from Life on Planet Earth (that massively multiplayer game every one hates to play but does anyway).

Each character has a normal shot and a charged shot and they’re different for all characters. No one character is required for anything but knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each makes the game more manageable. And since there can be multiple ‘selves’ on screen at once from past timelines, it’s possible to combine the character’s strengths to really get the most out of them.

… just enough to tease my brain …
If a character gets killed, the player will automatically go back in time. Once there, if they manage to stop the attack that killed their past ‘self’ they can pick up that ‘self’ and get an HP bonus as well as add that character’s charge attack to their own, letting them fire both charge attacks at once.

Once I got past STFU’s learning curve, I really enjoyed the game. The shooting aspects are good and the puzzle aspects of the main campaign were just enough to tease my brain without feeling overbearing or unattainable. If there’s one aspect I didn’t care much for it was the story. It’s relatively minor anyway, but the humor was really hit-or-miss in the sense that it felt like they were trying too hard to be ironic funny and just ended up pushing it too much.

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Visuals:
Super Time Force Ultra uses the deliberate ‘retro’ style graphics that are popular with smaller-project platformers these days. Everything is drawn in pixel art but it all works together well. The characters look good and are well differentiated, even with the lack of detail that comes with the retro style.

The environments also work well in the pixel art style. There’s plenty of variety between the different areas in the game. The game’s special effects work well over the backgrounds even with the sometimes overwhelming number of bullets and things moving around on screen.

… there really is a lot to like …
Audio:
Like the visuals, the game uses a retro style soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old console. Overall it’s a decent soundtrack; it gets the job done and fits the game well. The rest of the audio is filled out with appropriate blips and bleeps for the sound effects.

Online/Multiplayer:
There’s just an online leaderboard to try for the best time on each level.

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Conclusion: (for reals this time)
The learning curve is probably the most unapproachable part of Super Time Force Ultra. While the game does a decent job of explaining its mechanics, without being out in the levels trying things it’s hard to tell just how to best use those mechanics. The game does at least start out with an easier level to get a handle on things.

Once past the learning curve though, there really is a lot to like in STFU. The mechanics are fun and interesting and the game provides a variety of challenges to throw them at. With plenty of replayability between collectables, characters, and messing around in the HellaDeck, STFU is puzzling-platforming-shooting-stuff super good time.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4 and the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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