Capybara Games (Critter Crunch, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP) has seemingly been plugging away at two of my most anticipated titles for what feels like an eternity. Can’t deny their past successes so while waiting is (really) hard, it’s definitely a benefit to the final product. I was pretty excited to see Capy once again going big at PAX East this year and quickly hustled my way over to both booths to go hands on with Below and Super T.I.M.E. Force. You’ll find my detailed thoughts waiting for you below on both titles.
I’ve always been curious about this title since it was teased at last year’s Microsoft E3 conference. As the details have been slowly coming out since then, I found out that Capy was bringing it with them to PAX East this year. I knew I needed to try it. Located in the hybrid Capy/Double Fine booth, I sat down at a little station, put on the headphones and instantly became absorbed into this world.
Described as a creative take on roguelike games, Below presents a top-down and pulled back view of a tiny warrior navigating through a mysterious cave. Each room is randomly generated ensuring that it’s a unique experience each time through and will feature the traditional roguelike “tough but fair” difficulty. The animations on the little warrior really impressed me even with his tiny size on screen. Each sword swipe, jogging animation, and shield bash was so detailed, I couldn’t help but be in awe. it has this almost cute but menacing look to it. As I continued to play, I found myself more curious than anything as Below won’t hold your hand in an effort to tap into your explorer side urging you to discover things on your own in this atmospheric world. And discover I did as my curiosity lead me into some pretty devious traps and enemies.
As my character died for the first time due to my own curiosity and stumbling into a spike trap, that’s when the game’s soundtrack kicked on for the first time softly playing and gradually getting louder. My God people, the music! Jim Guthrie has once again nailed it as the song began to play, it fit so well with what was going on screen, it was beautiful magic. For a taste, have a listen here. I could have played more and I wanted to, but I could feel the evil eyes of the growing crowd behind me, so reluctantly, I gave up my seat and controller to the next person in line to hopefully experience the same joy I had just felt.
Below isn’t for the faint of heart and proves to be a difficult game. That’s part of the fun in my opinion as even though you *will* die, Below encourages discovering and exploring. Combine that addictive gameplay with amazing visuals and what will be a stunning soundtrack, Below is definitely one to watch out for when it releases in a few months for Xbox One and Steam.
Super T.I.M.E. Force
This pixelated, side scrolling shooter has been in development for a while now, but this was my first real opportunity to get some hands on time with it. Located in the large Microsoft booth on a single machine, I finally got my chance to bend time and space to my will.
Essentially a trippy action shooter with gorgeous pixel art, STF is Capy’s take on old school side scrolling Contra style games. Super T.I.M.E. Force challenges players to quickly make their way from beginning to end of a level in 60 seconds, but also gives the player the ability to not only add additional seconds but to mess with it in some very interesting ways as well.
The aspect that really impressed me was the “Time Out” mechanic which is at the core of this title. Time Out records previous playthroughs and when activated, will play them out with your current character giving you the appearance of having more than one character playing at once. Think of it as single player co-op. Initially, I thought it was only to be used when your character died (one hit kills naturally), but after watching and understanding how to use it effectively, the possibilities that it adds to the game cannot be understated. You can essentially use Time Out anytime you want (even though you do have a finite amount) giving you as many copies of your previous runs as you want to help out your current “live” character.
At one point in the game, I had to save a character trapped behind a steel barrier. I could shoot at the beam and eventually it would break, but alone, the chracter would be killed by an enemy in the room with him. by using Time Out three times, I created three copies of my previous characters all shooting at the beam. With this much firepower helping me, the beam was destroyed very quickly and the enemy beaten before it could kill that character. The copies then disappear when during their run, the Time Out feature was called for them so it’s not like you can have a huge army following you through the whole level.
I actually surprised the Xbox employee when I beat the demo level so quickly and he asked me if I wanted to sample the next level. Of course, the only correct answer was a resounding yes! Being third in line and watching the mistakes of the people in front of me certainly helped. Capy’s sense of humor is on full display, the playable characters are all diverse and interesting, and the game is just downright fun. While we don’t have a solid release date quite yet, it does sound like the game will be gracing us sooner rather than later, first on Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program.
Side Note! I got a chance to quickly meet Nathan Vella (co-founder/President of Capybara Games) quickly when he stopped by the Super T.I.M.E. Force booth. Awesome guy, and someone who’s very easy to root for and support.