SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE Review – Slowtime Roguelike
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE16th July, 2020
SUPERHOT is still a very enjoyable game. Indeed, I would argue that since I reviewed the original in 2016, it has aged exceptionally well. Since then, there has been a VR release of the original game and towards the end of 2017, the SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE standalone expansion was released into early access. A little over two and a half years later and I'm finally getting to play the finished product and the question is "do I like it?" I do. However, that comes with a few caveats.
To be completely blunt, SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE feels more like a pale imitation of the original, rather than an official expansion. If you play through the original title, you'll find levels that feel more like puzzles to solve, rather than stages full of enemies to kill. Sure, you're killing the enemies, but how you did that was poetry in motion, a piece of masterful art brought on by the outstanding level design from SUPERHOT Team.
Now and then you can get something that feels the same, but it's always by accident, rarely by design. On very rare occasions you'll encounter something designed and that's when it feels like the SUPERHOT you remember. Other times, you've got the same combat, the slow motion, the ability to throw something at an enemy and grab the weapon they've just dropped. It feels like the original, but SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is reactive rather than proactive.
So this is undeniably due to the move to a roguelike style game. Well, sort of. So the way it works is that you essentially start a new program up each time and you have to go through so many stages to get through that program. Each stage will have you kill a set number of enemies and once you have, you'll move onto the next stage. Rinse and repeat. Hopefully, you'll survive until the end.
To help you survive, since SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is a one-hit-one-kill game like the original, you have a lives system. Essentially, you can get killed more than once. That or you're a cheater and you didn't get killed the first time. Speaking of cheating, you actually will get the use of cheats, or hacks, through a wide selection of in-game abilities.
These abilities are divided into cores, one of which is selected through the use of the program, and the hacks that are randomly selected as you go through the stages. As you're working through, you'll be given a choice of two of the hacks you have unlocked. Some of these can be like the useless Explode hack, which sends shurikens flying from your body when you lose a heart - the whole idea is to not get hit - to the outstanding handgun, which starts you with a random gun whenever you have it activated.
To counter your cheating abilities the computer, the program, also has a host of new bots to send your way. Some of these explode when you kill them, others are immune to all attacks everywhere except for one body part - frustrating when it's a singular arm - and others, including regular enemies armed to the teeth with new weapons, some of which are permanently attached to the enemy too, stopping you from disarming them. All of this truly works well together and the combat is fun, so why am I left feeling a little despondent when playing the game?
So, the problem is that there are only so many levels, thirty-two, in SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE. After a few hours of playing it, you'll have played them all and likely have figured out every nook and cranny. That is to say that they are all pretty damn small, littered with columns, cars, shelves, boxes and whatever else can be used to generate some cover. Unlike in the first game where cover could be used sparingly, helping you figure out the next part of the puzzle, this will have you using cover like it's a chest-high wall in Gears of War.
Since the levels are lacking any true design or paths, it's very easy to find an area where you can simply keep backing into a wall to make time move normally and since the AI is pretty damn stupid, you can just lead all of your foes into a killing zone. One map, in particular, I love to play because I just hide in the toilets, they all come through the doorway and it's game over for them. What's even easier is that they just keep dropping me more weapons to use in both a regular stage or in an unlimited, wave-based, stage.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is just a little too easy to exploit. I suppose that, in a way, is fitting as game mechanics are all about exploiting the system, using the in-game hacks and so forth. As for the rest of the game, I can't honestly say a lot about it. There's a story buried here somewhere, but it's nowhere near as compelling as that of the original. From what I can gather, the story is more of the same but without the 'new' factor. Once you've killed the player/yourself - honestly, I don't know - a few times, it's easy to lose interest.
So without the compelling puzzle aspect that came with combat and a story that can best be described as "there", it's all about the combat. Fortunately, this is even more of a power fantasy than before only without the puzzle-based level design. Interesting, compelling and even exciting fights can happen and the slow-time based system makes you feel like John Wick, with the multiple powers adding to this to make you feel like Neo out of the Matrix.
There are two questions I've asked myself. Is SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE better than the original SUPERHOT? The other question is a simple one, is it a good game? In the first case, no, the original is simply a better game, though this certainly has its benefits. This leads perfectly into answering the second question. Yes, this is a good game.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is a good game to pick up and play in smaller doses. The combat carries a lot of the weight dropped by randomised level design and a poorer story. Fortunately, it carries enough that I still can't help but recommend the game, it just likely won't be the experience you're expecting.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is an engaging, albeit shallow experience. The combat is outstanding and still one of the best you can experience, only enhanced by the new abilities featured in this standalone. However, where the combat has improved, the taut and well-thought-out nature of the levels is lost due to the roguelike nature of the game, with the thought and surprise of the originals story lost in what is mostly meandering waffle here. Is it a good game? Yes, it's well worth playing if you just want the combat. If you want more, you'll likely be disappointed.
- The excellent time-moves-as-you-do combat returns with improvements in the form of hacks (skills)
- New enemy variations and weapons add to the variety and tactics of combat
- Plays incredibly smoothly and runs perfectly, no bugs in sight.
- Due to the roguelike nature, there is no real design to the combat, mostly removing the sense of combat being a puzzle to solve.
- The levels are mostly small and feature areas where it's easy to lure the rather stupid AI into a killing field, going against the nature of the game and combat
- The lack of design has highlighted the flaws in the AI
- Story is sluggish in progression, too much repetition and isn't honestly worth it.