Or, Super Time Bumbling Megido
I have completed Super Time Force Ultra and I still don’t understand how the game works.
From a design perspective, this is a strange combination of positives and negatives. In the “yay” column, despite my confusion about the mechanics and how they operate, I was compelled to work my way all the way through the game. I rewound time and brute forced my way through sections both difficult and frustrating in equal measure, and I did all of that with the pure faith that what was going to scroll onto the screen was going to be always more majestic than what scrolled by previously.
(That, by the way, holds true. There’s a silliness at the heart of STFU that gives it the feeling of a willingly-ridiculous Saturday afternoon play session between four or five creative ten year olds who love wordplay and hate doing the same thing twice.)
On the negative end, I can’t really tell you why Super Time Force Ultra is mechanically interesting other that “time travel whatnot and whodunit.” I’ve tried to explain the game to various people over the past few days when I was playing it, and I get caught. I finally just tell them to watch me play and there’s a 50% chance that they can understand what’s happening or not.
There’s two possible explanations for this. The first, and maybe Occam’s Razor, is that I just don’t have the ability to understand the game. It could be that my systems literacy is weak while my systems empathy is strong–I can’t explain it but I can feel it. It could be that time confuses me.
The second is that the time travel mechanics in Super Time Force Ultra are, against all common sense, totally extraneous to the game. What I mean is that you could play this game without the use of time mechanics at all if not for a couple late-game puzzles that need to be solved with simultaneous action.
The reason for this is that Super Time Force Ultra most often deploys time travel for a single use: damage multiplication. Since you’re always racing against the clock and boss battles are huge damage sponges, you often need to summon your time traveling self in order to shoot a creature with fifteen of your own guns at once. There’s rarely anything tactical or strategic involved. You saunter back and forth to avoid being shot and you power up your shoot moves and blast enemies as much as possible.
You time travel to shoot harder. The type of shot doesn’t matter very often. Sometimes you can rescue your buddies in order to shoot more better, I guess, but that never really seemed to matter what while I was playing.
I don’t understand because time travel is confusing; I don’t understand because time travel is unnecessary.
It leaves me at a weird place. I loved the game, but I never want to play it again. I think you should play it, but I don’t feel so strongly that I would buy it for you. It’s a weird place to be with a game that you find yourself in allegiance to it without really understanding what its brilliance is. The strange violence of a feeling communicated by a media object I guess.
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I was left at a similar place at the end of Super Time Force (I haven’t played the “Ultra” version) as you. Kind of like, “Wow, that was great!” but then immediately throwing it over my shoulder (metaphorically, of course), never to look at it again. I had no drive to get better at the game or go back through and pry loose its secrets.
Perhaps this is a result of the game being very good at entertaining, but not really something of substance. The art and sound are sensory feasts, the humor made me laugh often, and the time mechanics are a little different than most games. It put a smile on my face and helped to drive me through completion, even when I would occasionally get frustrated. However, there wasn’t really anything that I felt worth reliving afterwards.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that; games don’t need to be played 20+ hours to be valued.
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