Super Time Force Ultra is proof that AAA budgets and hundreds of employees will never truly replace the ingenuity of smaller studios like Capybara Games; a fact made clear by STFU’s stellar combination of classic shoot-em-up mayhem, nostalgic aesthetic and highly entertaining ability to travel through time.
Though it doesn't offer many of the sorts of puzzles you'd expect to see in a platformer, or the hyper-violence of the Hotline Miami series, Super Time Force Ultra meshes the two in a way that is equal parts forgiving and unwavering in its challenges. STFU players are asked to perform monumental tasks in the span of just 60 seconds -- give or take whatever bonus time you rack up throughout a level -- but are typically given dozens more chances to find a successful strategy than they actually need.
And of course, by “perform monumental tasks” I mean “kill everything in sight.”
Full Disclosure: The copy of Super Time Force Ultra used to complete this review was provided by Capybara Games; however, the developer did not retain any say in the contents of the article you are about to read.
Super Time Force Ultra is one of the least-bloody and most-colorful collections of murder puzzles to hit PC (or consoles) in the two years since Dennaton Games’ M-rated twin-stick shooter made its critically acclaimed debut. And, while the violence itself may not be the game’s focus – as was the case with Hotline Miami – I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that shooting things is at least 50 percent of the Super Time Force Ultra experience. Just not nearly as brutally.
In many ways, STFU’s presentation reminds me of your standard Saturday morning cartoon. The game sports a colorful and varied cast of characters, such as 10-year-old wasteland scavengers to skateboarding raptors, joining forces to save the world with a soundtrack and art style that invoke nostalgia for the games of yester-year.
Of course, unlike the shows that so many of us spent time watching during our two-day breaks from school, Super Time Force Ultra isn’t trying to teach you much of anything about life that you haven’t figured out by now. However, it sure does make teaming up with yourself, and whichever random STFU characters you decided to tag-in over the course of a level, pretty damn fun.
STFU also sports a surprisingly simple control scheme, mapping movement and aiming to the left analog stick while simultaneously giving players only a handful of buttons (jump, shoot and rewind time) to get the hang of. Attacks themselves vary from character to character, both in power and range; however, none of the Super Time Force members are especially difficult to learn.
So the only real challenge you’ll encounter while playing Super Time Force Ultra is figuring out how the actions of any one character will impact the actions of those you’ve already spawned and/or plan to spawn in just a few seconds.
In many encounters, that might be as simple as spending a few seconds shooting in a given direction before backpedaling down the timeline and adding a second member of the Super Time Force to your time-traveling firing squad. But things can get quite a bit more interesting during boss battles, when longer encounters ultimately leaving some of your earlier spawns in situations that you may not have expected.
Of course, it wasn’t until the last few moments of my battle against the game’s final boss that I realized how much I wished the Super Time Force Ultra campaign had forced me to swap between characters more frequently. So the realization that Super Hardcore mode was waiting for me after what I thought was the STFU’s final boss battle was certainly a pleasant one.
In the second half of the game, there are some extra constraints placed on character spawning, but the vast majority of the Super Time Force experience is simply figuring out the fastest way to shoot, chomp, fart-on or otherwise destroy every enemy standing between you and the end of any given level. STFU might rely on nostalgia a bit heavily at times, and rarely forces players to make strategic decisions, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most entertaining games I’ve played this summer.
It’s decidedly more-challenging than your first romp through Super Time Force Ultra’s six unique worlds; especially if you make the same mistake I did and only familiarize yourself with one or two of the 19 characters that can be unlocked in Super Time Force Ultra.
At this, you’re probably beginning to wonder what’s not to like, and I have to say that I’ve got to stretch a bit to come up with any real criticism of Super Time Force Ultra. The game may not be perfect, but it’s almost more fun than any game with a $14.99 price tag deserves to be.
If you twisted my arm, and demanded some sort of mark against the game, I’d point out that a seeming desire not to punish the STFU community for choosing a particular character(s) for a given level may have left Super Time Force Ultra a bit lacking in terms of variety. Enemies don’t force you to change tactics very often, if ever, and I’ve yet to encounter a scenario in Super Time Force Ultra that heavily favored one particular hero over another.
Then again, not every game needs to be the most challenging experience under the sun. Plenty of people, including yours truly, are more than happy to spend $15 on a game that offers six-plus hours of entertainment. Especially when the game in question offers six hours of pure entertainment; not the increasingly common mish-mash of incremental progress and controller-shattering frustration found in so many post-Dark Souls projects.
So, what I’m basically saying is, I don’t really have anything negative to say about Super Time Force Ultra. It’s a damn fine game, and one which I suspect all but a handful of people will be completely content to have spent a few dollars on. (It’s also free for Xbox One owners this month.)
Super Time Force Ultra Review – Final Verdict
If it wasn’t obvious enough from the previous collection of words, let me make my feelings on STFU known in as simple and concise a manner as I’m capable of.
You need to buy Super Time Force Ultra.
The total time you’ll find STFU enjoyable is entirely dependent on your willingness to learn/master the various characters and mechanics present in the game. The standard Super Time Force Ultra campaign will take most players about four to six hours to complete, six to ten (depending on skill level) for Super Hardcore mode, and a couple more if you’re willing to work through the game’s challenge stages.
If you absolutely loathe shoot-em-ups, I’m not sure that Super Time Force Ultra is going to change your mind; though the forgiving nature of its time-travel mechanic would seemingly make it a prime entry point for genre newcomers. But if you even occasionally enjoy bounding around the screen, dumping just as many bullets towards your enemies as they’re sending your way, then don’t you dare sleep on Super Time Force Ultra.
Score – 4/5
What did you think of Super Time Force Ultra? Already worked your way through the Xbox 360/One version of the game? Not quite as impressed with Super Time Force Ultra as Scott was?
Let us know in the comments section!