Time Soldiers (Arcade) review
"Unfortunately, every Time Soldiers triumph is canceled out by a flaw. If you don't know what you're doing, you'll find yourself repeating some areas more times than you'd care to count. That's because there are frequent warp points between the different time periods. So if you're trying to clear one zone and it's not the one you were instructed to explore, the game will let you go on your merry way... but no boss will ever appear and you'll just keep cycling through useless terrain until you catch onto your mistake and hop the next portal to a different setting."
In any other game, the projectiles might catch you off-guard. As you navigate the crumbling ruins of a once-sacred temple, silence falls around you. The cries of the last few dying soldiers fade and there remains only the scrape of your boots against grimy floors. Ahead, a peaceful pool awaits your arrival. Nude statues protrude from its depths, ringed in the midst of placid, lukewarm liquid.
When the attack comes, it doesn't catch you by surprise because this is Time Soldiers.
The tranquil scene erupts with violence. Statues fire a gauntlet of flaming brands and you dodge to the side, then rush forward as more of the projectiles pepper the path behind you. Soldiers emerge from the water ahead and suddenly you're caught in a crossfire no hero could possibly hope to endure. You're no exception. Care to continue?
Time Soldiers plays that way constantly, whether you're wriggling through laser-strewn passageways and firing at gun turrets or grappling with a massive Triceratops amidst a primeval jungle. Put simply, there's just too much stuff on the screen for you to possibly avoid it all. Quarter muncher? Indeed.
Perhaps even with so much to dodge, you might almost stand a chance... if the controls were decent. Time Soldiers predates 'dual analog,' though, and you'll feel that acutely. Baddies constantly parade onto the screen before you've had time to properly tend to their predecessors. Then you're in the middle of a shrapnel sandwich. If you turn to harass the new arrivals, that leaves your back exposed to whoever you were dealing with before. Besides that, you turn too slowly (think Resident Evil speeds). Odds are good that you'll be dead before you've even had a chance to make up your mind as to who should bear the brunt of your firepower.
“But I can emulate it,” you might say. “I don't mind if I have to continue frequently to get through the game because it's free!”
To that I say simply “But you haven't played Time Soldiers, have you?”
Time Soldiers proceeds in fits and starts, even when you attain reasonable mastery. Let's say you're wandering along a canyon, dodging a stampede of small dinosaurs while you fire diagonally at a throng of cavemen pelting you with stones. Somehow, you emerge from the gauntlet. Then you round the bend and a new line of bristling defense stops you dead in your tracks. Okay, you just lost one life. You have two more. So you reappear in a half-second, glimmering and temporarily invincible. You squeeze off a few shots. Several more adversaries fall but you're down another life. Finally you return and resume your timid rampage. That's enough to clear one obstacle, but one stray bullet later and you're back to the 'continue' screen.
It quickly becomes frustrating, yet the concept that drives Time Soldiers is cool enough that you might keep playing regardless. Basically, you're traipsing through seven fantastic environments, battling monsters and warriors as you work to rescue six captured allies and then put a stop to the evil force behind the abductions. Periods are divided into three chunks with frequent mini-boss battles along the way, plus a boss guarding each warrior you ultimately free. All of this is wrapped up in a beautiful visual style (I remember thinking at the time that the game was absolutely gorgeous, though of course it hasn't aged terribly well) that makes it cool to see what each stage holds next.
Unfortunately, every Time Soldiers triumph is canceled out by a flaw. If you don't know what you're doing, you'll find yourself repeating some areas more times than you'd care to count. That's because there are frequent warp points between the different time periods. So if you're trying to clear one zone and it's not the one you were instructed to explore, the game will let you go on your merry way... but no boss will ever appear and you'll just keep cycling through useless terrain until you catch onto your mistake and hop the next portal to a different setting. I'm not sure if the developers were trying to pad the experience or what, but the end result is occasionally quite tedious.
If you can forgive some of that tedium and if you can adjust to the often-brutal difficulty--two very big objections indeed--what you will find in Time Soldiers is otherwise above average and at times quite enjoyable. The vibrant visuals really add a lot to the experience, as do the frequent screams of anguish when you collapse to the ground. Add in some really cool boss encounters (Medusa and the splendidly animated T-Rex stand out especially) and it's easy to see why you'd be forgiving. Then, as icing on the cake, there's even a two-player mode so that you can battle through everything with a friend. Maybe with a buddy at your side, you can work your way to the final battle, then marvel as the game produces one final surprise and tosses you instantly back to the title screen when you lose that last life.
Considering what game this is, perhaps you should have seen that coming...
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 17, 2008)
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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