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Time Killers (Genesis) artwork

Time Killers (Genesis) review


"The foulness of Time Killers is legendary, but only in the form of its woefully belated Genesis port. The version which hit arcades in 1992 was a direct and pretty sleazy response to Mortal Kombat; Strata's only strategy was to feature more dismemberments and 16-bit gore fountains than Midway's seminal fighting opus. Instead of digitized actors, it used a homey hand-made approach which made it a little more disturbing. While it wasn't too much of a looker, the sprites and backgroun..."



The foulness of Time Killers is legendary, but only in the form of its woefully belated Genesis port. The version which hit arcades in 1992 was a direct and pretty sleazy response to Mortal Kombat; Strata's only strategy was to feature more dismemberments and 16-bit gore fountains than Midway's seminal fighting opus. Instead of digitized actors, it used a homey hand-made approach which made it a little more disturbing. While it wasn't too much of a looker, the sprites and backgrounds were pretty smooth, on par with Turbo-CD graphics, which made the ability to lop off arms and heads just enough to distinguish it from the competition. The pool of blood behind the Time Killers logo pretty much says it all: Mom would never let you play this. It was a modest success in the post-Street Fighter II frenzy of new "me too" 2-D fighting games.

Sega licensed the title immediately, intending to release a Genesis port in 1993. All indications point to the title being finished on schedule but the looming spectre of the MA-17 rating and angry letters from clueless parents caused a bit of coldness in THQ's lower extremeties. So, the only logical choice left was to wait until severed heads and geysers of blood would be the industry norm. That didn't happen until Resident Evil blew minds (and brain matter) in 1996, and became a cause celebre attracting more attention to Sony's sexy new gray box. During this period, the twilight of the Genesis reign, the port of Time Killers was finally released to overwhelming indifference.

Waiting all that time would do nothing but insure that its one selling point would be moot and all other aspects would be laughably outdated. Tekken and Virtua Fighter took the genre into three dimensions, Mortal Kombat II set the gold standard for two dimensions. Publisher THQ was in a hopeless situation selling this virtual equivalent of afterbirth. Developers Black Pearl managed to create something that would have been laughed at in 1991, to say nothing of how well it has aged. Their lackluster Star Wars games would lead me to believe in a "curse of the Black Pearl". Time Killers does nothing but substantiate that theory.

A horrendously low-quality audio speech clip starts you off on the worst possible foot; announcing the game's title it sounds vaguely like "TIME KILLER!" (in contrast to the actual title in plural form) Are you a bad enough time killer to kill seven other killers of time, before killing the baddest killer of all: DEATH? Haveth you the time to kill time killers, all fearsome killers through time? I believed I was, and I did, so I set the difficulty to "TIME KILLER" accordingly, and set the violence to "DECAPITATE" for maximum righteousness of killing. Our lineup of Time Killers is wildly varied to take advantage of the central conceit, ranging from a mohawked chainsaw massacrer from Chicago circa 2024, a Sarah Connor-esque warrior from 3297 with a cattle prod for an arm, to a purple insectoid alien known as Mantazz who is the only Time Killer with personality. I chose Mantazz and the horribly recorded, compressed and distorted voice let out a scratchy groan sounding like "MFFFFFTTTHHHHZZZZZZ".

Normally sound is not an important factor in a fighting game but Time Killers is exceptionally shit in this regard. Imagine an Atari 2600 attempting to emulate speech and you're on the right track. When the levels load up matters get even worse. Mantazz's first opponent was Matrix, the amputee amazon and token female, the setting a future vision of Rome, I guess. The "home worlds" of each character are sorely lacking the animation and personality of Street Fighter II, the closest to that is the impaled dinosaur head in Thugg the caveman's level. Our scratchy-voiced companion gargles "TIME KILLERS! ENGAGE!!" Matrix's theme is a four-second loop of two alternating high-register notes. As the Time Killers hack away at each other with five of the six available buttons, each targetting a different quadrant of the enemy combatant. Once their health dips into the red and pixellated blood is drawn, the music gets only more frantic and annoying, until it mutates into a sound not unlike a decibel sensor at your local Planet Fitness. It's great incentive to end battles as soon as possible, and it's possible to end a round inside five seconds by mashing all buttons on your poor controller.

Eliminating pesky contrivances such as "strategy" and "fairness", the computer will declare a jihad on your ass should you happen to kill it in a manner befitting of a Time Killer, that is to say mashing all buttons in hopes that your character will perform an Instant Kill, hacking off both arms and the head of your foe in a blocky and rather thick looking sanguine cloud. Everyone has an edge weapon of some form which makes this simple. Provided your weapon arm doesn't get hacked off in the process, and this is always a possibility in lieu of a countering or blocking system. In a fine bit of programming, more droplets of blood squirt out of the stump the more you press the button controlling the severed arm. As your character stands dumbly, bemoaning his fate, the computer will either arbitrarily pull off a Stunner and then Instant Kill, or simply go in and pull off the Instant Kill with no foreplay beforehand.

The fights never go smoothly should they not end prematurely. There's a terrible feeling of lag whenever anyone does anything, and the controls are so unresponsive it's as reliable as screaming suggestions at the screen. Which I found I did quite often. Soon it becomes evident that switching up strategies is the kiss of death for a Time Killer. I got all the way to Death just by doing Mantazz's hovering "helicopter blade" attack over and over when I wasn't doing the same leg sweep over and over. This came out the same year as Tekken 2, by the way.

Having AI that perfectly recreates the experience of being trounced by that nerd at Peter Piper's (you know the one!) is the only way to increase the shelf life of Time Killers. Alternatively you can kill time with a friend until you get bored and decide to kill the Black Pearl development team instead.

Rating: 1/10

johnny_cairo's avatar
Community review by johnny_cairo (June 30, 2007)

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