The player's single jet fighter (placed in the center of the screen) shoots down waves of WWI Biplanes, WWII era fighters, 1970's era helicopters, 1980's era jets, and futuristic UFOs while trying to rescue fellow pilots and avoid bombs, missiles, and other enemy fire.Your aircraft is a sleek jet that travels to five different time eras which each have different enemies. The time periods are as follows:
- 1910; biplanes and a blimp
- 1940; WWII monoplanes and a B-25
- 1970; helicopters and a CH-46
- 1982 or 1983 (the year varies between ROM versions); jet planes and a B-52
- 2001; UFOs.
Time Pilot has examples of :
- Astral Finale: After four stages with a sky and clouds for the background, the fifth stage is in space.
- Boss Battle: Pretty historically significant in many respects:
- One of the earliest arcade games, if not the earliest, to have multiple bosses (though none of them were more important than any other, story-wise - i.e., there isn't a Final Boss who is implied to control all the others)
- Also one of the first, if not the first, to have a boss at the end of every single stage, rather than at the end of a series of stages (like Gorf or Phoenix).
- Possibly also the first to have bosses that require multiple hits to destroy, rather than a single well-aimed shot at a tiny weak point (again, like Gorf or Phoenix).
- And it might possibly the first to have mini-bosses, as well, in the form of the medium-sized supply planes in the 1940 stage, which take four hits to destroy, as opposed to one hit for regular enemies and seven hits for the bosses.
- Boss Warning Siren: A loud warning will sound before the boss shows up on any given level. Though it's not actually a siren—it's the sound of the boss's engine.
- Destructible Projectiles: Canister shot in 1910, missiles in 1970 and 1982, and everything in 2001.
- Failed Future Forecast: The sole future era is represented by a Space Battle in the year 2001.
- Shows Damage: As you shoot the level's Mothership (or the 1940s supply plane), it slowly bursts into flame, which grows as it takes more damage. The sole exception is the 2001 UFO Mothership, which just flashes faster and faster as it takes damage.