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Time Pilot (Xbox 360) artwork

Time Pilot (Xbox 360) review

"What makes the game stand out from the crowd of its contemporaries is the rather unique notion that you’re not limited to just one static screen, like you would’ve been in Space Invaders or Galaga. You can fly up, down, left or right—or any combination of two directions—and the screen will accommodate your mad piloting skills."

Someone must’ve wished for Time Pilot to be made into an Xbox Live Arcade title at some point, but it most certainly wasn’t me. I’d never even played it before. Still, encouraging words from someone on my ever-growing friends list spurred me forward and I gave the game a shot. I’m glad I did.

The basic premise for Time Pilot is pretty simple and rather typical of the sci-fi fare common when Konami first released it in the early 80s: you are a pilot flying a plane that somehow can warp through time. Your mission is to fly through various historical periods while shooting down enemy aircrafts until a boss appears, shoot him down, then repeating everything in the next era. You do this until you’ve cleared the enemies from five time zones, at which point you loop back through and do it all again.

What makes the game stand out from the crowd of its contemporaries is the rather unique notion that you’re not limited to just one static screen, like you would’ve been in Space Invaders or Galaga. You can fly up, down, left or right--or any combination of two directions--and the screen will accommodate your mad piloting skills. The result feels a little bit like soaring upward through a rainstorm. Airplanes and their bullets bombard you from all sides, so you can’t just keep flying along an even course if you want success. Instead, you’ll need to bob and weave through projectiles, circle back around to avoid homing missiles, and generally keep your eyes glued to the screen lest you miss noticing a bullet somewhere in the background and lose a plane from your dwindling reserves.

Though the background is rather busy in both the retro mode (which you must select from the “Options” menu) and the upgraded version, cheap deaths aren’t as plentiful as you might anticipate. My first night playing the game, I started out doing horribly, but most games found me making a large leap until I was racking up decent scores and making it most of the way through the cycle of time zones. Plentiful cloud coverage and swirling mist can make anyone feel edgy, but that’s part of the game’s appeal.

As this is an Xbox Live Arcade title, there are of course a few other reasons to play, too. One is a multi-player mode. You can create a lobby, then challenge someone to a friendly match to see who survives longest on the vertically-split screen. There are also cooperative modes, but who cares about that? The real fun is in humiliating your rivals! Readily available leader boards mean you also have bragging rights if you’re the best among those on your “Friends” list (I’m not).

For those who just like going it alone, Konami has included a fine selection of Achievements you can unlock with practice. Most of them revolve around how many of the time periods you can clear, though there are some fun diversions like the one that asks you to save 10 paratroopers in a single game, or the ones that compel you to destroy a set number of missiles in some of the later stages. With an hour or two of play, you should be able to unlock most or all of them, which feels appropriate, but there’s plenty of reason to keep right on going if you have someone you’d like to beat.

Ultimately, Time Pilot is perfect for something like Xbox Live Arcade. It’s a fun little game that’s easy to pick up and play. You’ll go for a few minutes, then die and start all over because you remember a few things you might have done better, a few things you wanted to try that you’re just certain will lead to a better score. Then you put those strategies to good use and find that you were right, only a buddy of yours is a few thousand points ahead of you and it’s driving you nuts. Sound like something you’d care for? If so, Time Pilot is your game.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 20, 2006)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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