PAX Prime 2012: I Want To Join the ‘Super Time Force’ (Hands-on Preview)

During PAX Prime, I learned that it’s actually kind of fun to die in Capybara Games’ platformer/shooter Super Time Force. That’s to say, sure I’m still not a fan of getting laser blasted out of existence by some grunt in one of the game’s action-heavy levels, but I don’t mind it so much when I’m able to come right back and take him out with another member of my team and even “save” the teammate who died last time.

But let me rewind a bit and break the experience down for you and hopefully explain why I’m really looking forward to the next game from the developers behind Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP.

As a member of the Gunstar Heroes-style badasses of the Super T.I.M.E. Force, you and your four-member team are tasked with fixing the broken space-time continuum starting from the mysterious year 198X. The Capybara co-founder and CEO Nathan Vella explained that the game’s concept grew out of an IGF Game Jam, ultimately taking on a life of its own. It’s being developed by, appropriately enough, a four-person team, and back in March, it took home the IGF XBLA Prize, meaning the game will be coming to the 360 at some point in the future.

As for the game itself, visually, it’s part of the ongoing wave of chunky pixel, primary color-heavy throwback titles. At any given time, it’s a confusion of yellow bullets zipping around but it’s never confusing. If you’ve ever played a shooter of this type, your best bet is to pay attention to enemy patterns and to learn to duck and weave. The twist with the rewind mechanic–along with a constantly ticking clock–puts the emphasis on barreling out of the level rather than playing it slow and steady.

Each of the members of the T.I.M.E. Force has a primary and secondary attack accommodating different play styles–one member of the team comes equipped with a riot shield that she can use to bash enemies or with her special attack, deflect their bullets; another mixes regular shots with her laser with a charged-up straight blast that can penetrate walls–although the action was so frenetic that in the single level I played I didn’t quite get a hang of any single character.

Player death serves as the game’s checkpoint system: the first time you die, you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the level where you’ll select one of the game’s four characters. Now at this point, a ghost version of your dead teammate will follow the same path through the level, and if you’re so inclined, you can let them clear the way for you, killing all of the respawned enemies they eliminated last time. When you reach the point where your last squad member met their demise, after you kill the enemy that killed them, and then make contact with your teammate’s body, you’ll have created a checkpoint to start from the next time you get killed.

Vella told me he and his team found that this gave value to player death: from my time with the game, it’s less of a penalty and more an alternate aid to getting through the level (although I’m sure there are some STF pros out there who’ll be posting speed runs where they don’t die a single time). For me, it was a chance to find the right character to use and the best way to beat feet through the level.

With its goofy style and obsession with keeping the action crazy onscreen on just the single level I saw (well, I did see another level with dinosaurs, but spent most of my time trying and dying in the first one), I’m really looking forward to spending more time with the Super Time Force.

Super Time Force will be available on XBLA in 2013.

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PAX Prime 2012: Welcome to the World Tekken Federation
PAX Prime 2012: Day Two, A Couple of Pics, and Metal Gear!

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