I’m torn. On the one hand, SUPERHOT is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years! However, this is not a $30 game by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a couple of core mechanics, a bunch of levels and a heap of extra modes that work off of them, but there isn’t a lot of novelty. A lack of novelty isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can feel a tad underwhelming to reward the player with more of the same after such a short story mode. Of course, I’d much rather engage in a high-quality couple of hours instead of a bloated mess of a concept, and what SUPERHOT delivers, it delivers immaculately.
The main idea behind SUPERHOT is that time only moves when you do (… Well, it still moves, but it’s pretty negligible). This ability means that you can see bullets coming at you and dodge them accordingly, and it’s a unique dynamic that’s never really been done before. Instead of the run-n-gun styling of a lot of other modern shooters, SUPERHOT plays more like a puzzle game. You’re given a small level to “solve” by killing all the red dudes, and it’s a satisfying design to engage in when you get into the flow of it. Unfortunately, if you can’t dig the system, this game isn’t for you.
The core of the game lies in how you navigate the room and position yourself to take out those red dudes, but that’s about it. There aren’t many weapons, there’s only one enemy type (the red dudes, that’s their actual name), and it’s not exactly a game of intense variation. Even the AI is predictable, and it’s incredibly easy to make them do what you want if you move right. Sure, there’s a heap of challenges to check out, but they’re all the same maps with a little twist. For some people, that might be enough, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was just playing the same game over and over again. The repetition isn’t supported by the fact that almost all the levels are from the story mode, which is remarkably good considering it only lasts 2 hours.
It might be a surprise to learn that SUPERHOT’s story is exquisite. It’s more of a vignette than a full campaign, but that suits the game perfectly, and it touches on so many themes that it’s mind-boggling. Without giving away too much, you play as yourself playing a game called superhot.exe, hackers get a hold of your consciousness, and the rest is pure cyberpunk history. It’s a cool meta-narrative (complete with 4th wall breaks) that takes advantage of the fact that games are in control of players, not the other way round. It even has a few tongue-in-cheek moments too, which is great to see in a game that takes itself so seriously. Once you’re done with the story, though, you’ll find some rather superfluous things in the game.
The game presents itself through an old DOS-esque menu interface, which helps with immersion but has some strange items in it. For instance, there’s a menu item called “APPS” with computer simulations like Conway’s Game of Life in there. You’ve also got ASCII art in the “ART” folder and even a fully simulated chatroom to watch. Okay, cool, you’ve given me things that are entirely superfluous because… Immersion? I struggle to see why these things are in the game beyond the coders getting bored, and it doesn’t add much to the game itself. Still, it all looks good, and not just in the sense that it’s gorgeous.
SUPERHOT is as visually punchy as it is functional. The entire game only uses white, black and red for terrain, weapons and enemies respectively, and it makes identifying what’s where easy. The terrain never obscures enemies because their colours shine through, and when things start getting heated, it helps to have such a striking palette. The colour design is also present in the main menu, where chat windows and hacker messages follow the same colour trends, and it works fantastically. The thing is, not everything looks good.
As pretty as the game is, there are a few things that could use another look-over. SUPERHOT was born out of a game jam, and the animations feel like they haven’t improved since then. When you fire a weapon, it looks like you’re pulling the gun out of an invisible elephant’s anus, and the enemies run animations border on comical. It’s hardly unforgivable considering how well the game works, but for a $30 game, I tend to expect a bit more than poor animations.
The thing that I can’t get past is how ludicrous the price of this game is. I’d happily spend $15 on SUPERHOT, maybe even $20 if I was feeling generous, but $30?! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game, and if you’re into it, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from the game, but there’s not enough here to justify a $30 price tag. It’s obvious that a lot of effort has gone into the game, but it’s been placed in superfluous features while neglecting core ones. Still, as soon as it goes on sale, it’s worth a look.
Despite not having a lot of content to offer, SUPERHOT is one of the most innovative and unique shooters out there. It plays like a puzzle game, has a great look to it and boasts a fantastic narrative. There’s not a whole lot of novelty or variety in the game, but what SUPERHOT does, it does extremely well. It’s worth your time, and it’ll leave you going SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT SUPER HOT… Just wait for a sale first.