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Time Pilot (Xbox 360) artwork

Time Pilot (Xbox 360) review


"The year is 1982."



In the far-off future of 2001, the earth is under constant turmoil. As some of us may or may not remember, five years ago, an invasion of UFO’s nearly annihilated all of earth. Hordes of unidentifiable aliens cycled around the planet amongst the hundreds of asteroids that somehow magnetized near the atmosphere. How the hell did this happen? One can’t be too sure. However, hope arrived in the form of a technologically advanced jet fighter, equipped with a time traveling device that made the Delorian look like a 19th century carburetor. With this, the fighter was able to clear out the tyrannical forces that occupied each decade, leading up to the final confrontation right above our heads.

The year is 1982.

Ah, it truly was an epic battle that people will remember for ages and ages to come. Wait, it never happened? Oh that’s right, yet another stereotypical prediction made by the geniuses of the eighties. Back in the good old days it seemed that everyone thought the year 2000 would bring about so much. Kids would hover around the television, watching “The Jetsons” until the early hours of the morning, awaiting the day the flying car and moving sidewalks would suddenly appear in reality. Unfortunately, those days never came, and aside from computers, cable TV, and annoying Indie music, not much has really changed. And the same can be said for the latest addition to the XBLA library, Time Pilot.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Time Pilot remains as one of the best retro shooters of all time. Taking different elements from games like Asteroid and Galaga, Konami was able to form an eloquent shooter with plenty of fresh features. The game was fairly obscure, but those that found a machine in their local arcade knew just how great the game was. 360 degrees of motion, adequate difficulty, and a unique presentation awaited the challenger, with plenty of memorable moments to be had along the way.

The premise of Time Pilot is pretty simple. You control a jet that stays centered on a vertically oriented screen. The title sports five levels, taking you from the early nineties through the dawn of the 21st century, where you will be confronting different aerial adversaries along the way. From the biplanes of 1910 to the missile-filled helicopters of the disco era, there are plenty of things to decimate, with lives and achievements waiting for the best of the best. Your objective in each of these levels will be to destroy as much as possible until the requirement is met. Afterward, a boss will appear, but to be honest, they feel more like mini-bosses. Most of the early missions are extremely easy, and half of the time, you will finish a level without even knowing it.

This could all be attributed to your jet’s rate of fire, which allows you to spray out three shots per action. Also, the game makes the most of the joystick. The ship doesn't just point in eight directions, but actually takes the time to turn completely around when instructed to. This gives you a wide range of motion to fire, similar to the circle shooting game-play featured in Geometry Wars. Hit detection is a bit off at certain times, with some shots going through certain enemies, but as a whole, the game feels almost exactly like the arcade original.

My personal favorite part of the game is the UFO which emerges from the hectic background of 2001 to rain hellfire on your ship, all the while sending countless minions in to suicide-ram your ass into oblivion. Time Pilot’s boss encounters may be incredibly simple in premise, but the moment one appears on the screen changes everything for the better. Frantically trying to keep those last few lives in check while dozens of missiles and lasers light up the blackness of space around you, truly molds quite the dynamic moment. And those who played the game back in the eighties will be glad to know that the charm is still there.

Probably the most admirable change implemented into Time Pilot would be the audio and visual updates. When you first fire up the game you will notice the title is displayed in the classic setting. Changing that option to advanced will open more detailed ship designs, cloud layers, and add several new musical tracks as well. The game really looks good with better graphics, lessening the age of the title by quite a few years. Hey, why play a 1982 game when you can play a 1987 game, am I right?

One last thing to note is the extra couple of online features that Xbox Live included into the mix. Alongside a two-player alternating mode through the story mode, you can also get online to compete against another pilot. Unfortunately, no head-to-head combat is available, and the key way to win each round is by getting a better score than your opponent; which is obtained by alternating turns battling the AI. It is disappointing that there wasn’t more added to this mode, but it is to be expected for an arcade port. Also, the game is surprisingly lag-free, which is a sigh of relief after playing the mess that is Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting.

No matter what the future holds, one thing is for certain: Time Pilot is worth the 400 point purchase. Whether it is to quell that curious nostalgia or to acquire all 200 achievement points the game has to offer, Time Pilot emerges as one of the best titles on XBLA. The single player is over relatively quick, but the frantic premise will pull you in again and again, proceeding not to let go until you vaporize every last alien bastard. So get your head in the game and shoot stuff soldier. We wouldn’t want a repeat of 2001 now would we?

Rating: 8/10

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Staff review by Branden Barrett (September 12, 2006)

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