The Master System is probably not your first choice for a console to fire up if you want some multi-player action. The system has a respectable library of versus and co-op options, but you will certainly find it a limited selection compared to the Mega Drive. Modern consoles built around pick-up-and-play and party games like the Switch or the Wii will naturally have a lot more on offer, but even if you’re desperate to go 8-bit the NES library seems a better choice (especially with the convenience of the NES Mini). With that said, there are a handful of classics that are worth firing up and Time Soldiers, a top-down run-and-gun, is one of them.
Firstly, Time Soldiers deserves to have praise heaped upon simply for being co-op. Not only does the Master System have limited options, but not all arcade ports kept their co-op function when making it to the system (looking at you, Dynamite Dux). Its a lot of fun to play, with a slightly more generous difficulty curve than similar games. It is still difficult, though, with players limited to only three continues. In multi-player this is very noticeable – with two characters on screen and a lot of projectiles flying around don’t be surprised if one player is just spectating by the second level. Its a nice challenge, and even if you both die embarrassingly quickly you’ll find yourself giving it ‘just one more go’ multiple times.
The setting of Time Soldiers is its strongest feature. In a genre dominated by jungle and military setting not only is the time-travelling sci-fi scenario of this game a breath of fresh air, but it allows for a lot of variety other games lack. There is a pretty standard looking warzone level, but you’ll also find yourself battling through enemies in the prehistoic past, complete with dinosaurs, through ancient rome, and even into the future. The graphics are appealing and reasonably colourful, which makes this game feel like it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fighting off hordes of cavemen armed with stone daggers with a missile launcher certainly doesn’t seem sporting, but its part of this games ridiculous charm.
Time Soldiers is among the more affordable of the heavily recommended multi-player games on the system, so if you’ve got two controllers and you’re in desperate need to take advantage of them its a very solid choice. Its not perfect (but what 8 bit game is?) and you’ll need a lot of patience if you want to make it to the end, but Time Soldiers manages to stay enjoyable after multiple attempts.