Playing with other people isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all, can you name the last time a co-op partner actively contributed to you getting a stage deeper than normal in Spelunky? No, us neither. And how about the way the ‘annoyingly grab other players’ button and Boost Boots trigger is one and the same in LittleBigPlanet 3? Exactly. Better, then, to play with the only person you can trust: you.
Capybara’s Super Time Force Ultra affords just that opportunity, enabling players to unleash an army of themselves on the game’s cleverly designed pixel-art levels. Although initially perplexing on first glance, the premise of the game is deceptively simple: run and gun through a level until either your time, or your luck, expires, then rewind events and tackle the same sequence with another character – though, this time, you’ll have a translucent ghost of your previous attempt alongside you. Do this 30 or so times and the screen will be awash with firepower and spectral allies.
You start each level with 60 seconds on the clock and 30 Time Outs with which to spool back events. You can bolster your stock of both by collecting the floating clocks and crystalline ‘glorbs’ scattered throughout each stage. It’s a setup that affords a surprising amount of challenge and depth – while a minute might be enough to run to the end of the level unimpeded, it certainly won’t be enough time to tackle all the tough enemies and bosses that stand in your way. Previously immovable health bars topple with satisfying ease when there’s a few of you spraying bullets and grenades, buying you more time to venture farther into the level.
This setup creates a pretty heady mix of shooter, platformer and puzzler which opens the way for some obsessive highscore chasing as you finesse playthroughs to become a lethally efficient one-person SWAT team. Capybara pushes that idea even further with Looker Badges, earned by getting to the end of the level in what will at first seem like an impossibly small amount of time – it’s like going for a Trials Fusion platinum medal on foot. With more guns.
Whatever pace you intend to set, you can select from a variety of characters (including, as we reported last issue, an adorable, Tweet-hurling Shuhei Yoshida) all of whom have their own primary and secondary abilities. Shieldy Blockerson, for example, can absorb enemy bullets by holding up his shield – which could allow other characters to zip through a section they previously had to negotiate carefully – while Jean Rambois has a weak single-shot rifle that, when charged, throws out a three-way volley. Get enough Rambois out on the stage, and the game quickly starts to resemble a bullet-hell shooter.
If you’re fast enough, you can even prevent the death of previously fallen comrades by taking out their killer in time. Do so, and they’ll remain on-screen in flickering freeze-frame until you ‘collect’ them, boosting your armour and gifting you their special move for as long as you remain unshot. Along the way you’ll encounter bonus characters in precarious positions, too. Fail to reach them in time and they’ll come to a sticky, though perversely amusing, end, but swoop in and you’ll find them added to your roster for next time.
On top of the original campaign and new characters, Ultra adds a bunch of shorter, puzzle-centric missions which force you to use the game’s time travelling mechanic in new and often more focused ways. In an already moreish, hugely replayable experience, these promise to have a disastrous effect on our productivity. STFU may have been a long time coming to PS4 after its Microsoft exclusivity period, but it looks like it will have been well worth the wait.