All videogames are about time travel, kind of. They’re about the strangeness of repeating or overlapping timelines. They’re about going back again and again until you get it right.
Dark Souls and The Stanley Parable both address the existential dread lurking behind that idea—the idea that we live in a disorderly and mutable universe, or else in an absolutely preordained universe whose strange mechanics we can never understand.
Super Time Force, which recently saw a Special Edition release on Steam as Super Time Force Ultra, takes that same chaos and gives it a propulsive, Rick and Morty energy. If somebody really did invent time travel, the game argues, then everything from that point on would be unbridled madness, with the inventor altering history for selfish or short-sighted or just-plain-stupid reasons, and the world being destroyed and undestroyed and destroyed again, many times over.
It would be awful.
And also, it would be irresistibly fun.
The titular Super Time Force treats individual human lives, the flow of history, and the fabric of spacetime itself with gleeful nihilistic abandon. After all, we can always go back and fix this stuff later, right?
Sure we can.
But alright, the nuts and bolts: Super Time Force Ultra starts each mission by giving you sixty seconds on the clock and the ability to rewind time thirty times. You can rewind a fraction of a second, or you can rewind to the beginning of the mission, or anything in between. And you can initiate a rewind whenever you like—though usually, you’ll do it when you die.
Prevent your own death, and you can absorb your former self’s special attack, as well as an extra hit point. Or let the old you go, and use the diversion to sneak around and flank the enemy. Or screw up your rescue attempt a half-dozen times, then finally get it right, giving you seven now-not-quite-dead selves to absorb.
Of course, you can also embrace the idea of having multiple timelines going at once, fanning out two or three yous to explore the level while another powers forward to the end—a speed run and a completionist run, all in one.
Find yourself asking how you could have possibly seen that trap coming and, well, you’ll know it was coming next time, now won’t you?
Find yourself wondering how in the world you’re going to do that much damage to the boss in that amount of time, and an answer prevents itself immediately: Have five of you firing right at each of your enemy’s weakest weak spots the instant the fight begins. Glory ensues, and afterward you can see it playing out as it would have looked to some omniscient outside observer, your attempts all overlapping Super Meat Boy-style.
Super Time Force Ultra satisfies the perfectionist in me, and it satisfies the large part of me that needs things to feel a little messy if they’re going to feel authentic. It’s a precise and finely tuned simulation of a universe that’s all disorder and flux. It’s a functional model of a hopelessly broken reality.
It’s probably the most realistic prediction I’ve ever seen of what the world might look like after the invention of time travel.
In that it’s chaos.
Beautiful, endlessly repeatable, just-about-but-not-quite-perfectible chaos.