SuperHot Review

The first time I saw SuperHot, it was a simpler game for the 7-Day FPS game jam. Although it was simple, it demonstrated a singular, sound, question: What if there were a first-person-shooter that was more of a puzzle than a game about reflexes? Time in the game only moves when your character moves.

The first time I ever played something similar was way back when with Action Quake 2 and using Quake 2-engine console commands in order to slow down time. That gave me something like The Matrix, but it was an incredibly shallow experience, especially when it wasn’t fun to play multiplayer that way.

The finished SuperHot isn’t incredibly deep, but it is more impressive and has way more ideas than that old childish power fantasy of thinking and moving faster than the enemies around you in an FPS we all cribbed from movies.

The game presents you with all kinds of style. An old-school ASCII-style terminal provides the menu and feels like something from DOS computers in the the 1980s. Each option makes sense within this universe. You can change settings in settings.exe and the main game is launched from superhot.exe. This menu is where you bounce back from the challenge of the main game and chat with artificial online strangers to find out more about it.

Each level is a stark contrast of white geometry with harshly polygonal red bad guys that have a kind of shine to them. You will see one additional color, black, to indicate bullets and firearms along with objects like baseball bats that can be picked up and wielded against your foes. This style is unique. The closest comparison would be to Mirror’s Edge, but even that game’s simplistic color-scheme has much more texture to the characters and world.

It’s an art style that grabs your eyes with simplicity in order for you to focus on the game play of avoiding the oncoming bullets, fists, baseball bats, and other objects the red guys throw your way.

Each time you shoot or punch out a red guy you’re rewarded with their polygons shattering in a unique display of aggression that is your reward for figuring out the solution to the puzzle of moving past that obstacle for the next. Each time you’re wondering how you can move onto the next red guy and survive until you’re rewarded with the end of the level when a robotic voice chants SUPERHOT… while the full-speed replay displays underneath the text SUPERHOT

Early on in SuperHot one of the levels wants to teach you how to dodge oncoming fire in a simple corridor. It took me a few tries to understand that yes, indeed, I need to go slow as the game had informed me in giant bold text. Darting right until the red guys fired, then left and waiting for them to fire again, on and on up the corridor until I could try and retrieve the pistol a dead red guy had dropped. Except picking that gun up was another motion that caused time to proceed, allowing the enemy fire to move, and left me dead a few times until I learned to lead the red guys into shooting away from me and gave myself enough time to pick up the gun. Each step after that put less distance between the red guys and my character, but with SuperHot’s gun all distances are shorter and it’s just a matter of giving yourself the time to fire, wait for the next round to chamber, and fire again. All without getting shot. So if the first half of that level taught me how to avoid fire, the second half teaches you to remember where bullets are in the air at any time. That’s the puzzle you have to work out in each level. Moving, from one red guy to the next, reaching out and firing untilSUPERHOTSUPERHOT

The level-ending chant is deeply satisfying when it happens. Although SuperHot’s campaign doesn’t present any incredible challenges, it does change things up and add new twists that are almost universally fun to learn and best.

SuperHot succeeds at being unlike any traditional FPS, but it also isn’t an incredibly long experience. I finished the game’s campaign in just a few hours. Once you’ve completed it you unlock other single-player challenges and wave-based survival modes that are fun, but it is questionable if the game is worth those $25 dollars the developer charges by default.

That isn’t a question I will be able to answer for everyone, but for my life these days it’s nice to be done with something after a few hours without feeling like I’ve just made the first step into adding some 150-hour long journey to the back catalog of games I’ll probably never get around to. So, I don’t feel like SuperHot overstayed its welcome by throwing more ridiculous gameplay ideas at us. Instead, it was just as much SuperHot as I wanted, and I’ll always randomly think to myself SUPERHOTSUPERHOT

4 out of 5 VHS copies of The Matrix for SuperHot. It is available on Steam for Windows, macOS, and Linux or on the Xbox One.

Subsurface Circular

Mike Bithell, of Thomas Was Alone and Volume fame, surprised everyone by announcing a game and releasing it on the same day. Subsurface Circular promises a new text-based adventure investigator to discover the reason why robots are disappearing in this underground subway mystery.

Subsurface Circular is a short game, but it’s also pretty inexpensive for fans of dialogue trees at $6 on Steam for Windows and macOS.

Nidhogg 2 Day

Couch 1v1 stab-em-up Nidhogg 2 is out today. I loved the first game’s vaguely Atari 2600-era graphics. This one appears to have a “Weird ass SNES” style going on, complete with a Yoshi’s Island world map and online multiplayer.

I’ve never played Yoshi’s Island because the baby Mario and Luigi characters are dumb as nails but Nidhogg is awesome.

You can get Nidhogg 2 for $15 on PlayStation 4 or Steam on Windows and macOS.

West of Loathing

About 14 years ago a game called Kingdom of Loathing sprang out of the wacky mind of Zack Johnson. Kingdom is a free, wacky, online browser-based RPG with goofy hand-drawn stick figures, and funny as hell. It’s been so long since I played that I can’t even remember what email address I ever used to sign up.

Good news for everyone who wants more Loathing, the developer has sprung West of Loathing on us for Windows, macOS, and Linux on Steam. While the original Kingdom was all fantasy, West is taking the action-RPG to the wild west of Loathing for $11. Looks fun.

StarCraft Remastered Available

Blizzard have gone and done it, the remastered versions of StarCraft and its expansion Brood War are available on for Windows and macOS at $15. Back when these remasters were announced Blizzard had said that the name was going away, they’ve gone back on that and will now call it Blizzard, which is fine.

The remastered version of StarCraft has updated graphics, resolutions, cloud saves, and multiplayer features with leaderboards and matchmaking from Blizzard’s modern online services. You can also just get the regular un-remastered version for free at this link, which plays just fine on modern desktop operating systems.

What I really want to know is: When are they remastering Warcraft 2?

Spelunky Creator Making 50 Game Multicart With Friends

Derek Yu, the developer of the amazing Spelunky side-scrolling rando-caver is putting together a multi-game collection called UFO 50 with a team of 4 other developers and artists. It’ll be 50 games that they reassure us are “…full games and not microgames or minigames!”

Each game will have its own director, although all of the people working on the project have collaborated with each other to improve on the other games in the collection.

I’m not sure I’d be excited for games with this 8-bit style from anyone else in 2017, but Yu’s Spelunky had an incredible following after it was released due to a daily challenge mode that popularized the concept and was an incredibly well put-together game.

UFO 50 is promised for a 2018 release on Windows before it hits other unspecified platforms.

Slime Rancher out of Early Access

The extremely adorable Slime Rancher has exited out of Steam’s Early Access and is available on Steam for Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as on the Xbox One where it’s currently available for free to anyone who has the Xbox Live Gold subscription. Otherwise it’s $20, except for right now when it’s on sale for $13.39 on Steam.

According to Steam I’ve put in a little under 5 hours of collecting Slimes and their poop and I know that I’ve enjoyed my time with it prior to release, it’ll be fun to come back and see how it has changed.

It’s Time For iOS To Allow Apps From Outside the App Store

Recently, Apple started removing VPN apps from their iOS App Store in China in order to comply with local laws. That may be something they have to do as a business, but it’s time to allow apps from developers outside of the App Store. Gruber:

To me, the more interesting question isn’t whether Apple should be selling its products in China, but rather whether Apple should continue to make the App Store the only way to install apps on iOS devices. A full-on “install whatever you want” policy isn’t going to happen, but something like Gatekeeper on MacOS could.

Keep iOS App Store-only by default. Add a preference in Settings to allow apps to be downloaded from “identified developers” (those with an Apple developer certificate) in addition to the App Store. In that scenario, the App Store is no longer a single choke point for all native apps on the device.

The App Store was envisioned as a means for Apple to maintain strict control over the software running on iOS devices. But in a totalitarian state like China (or perhaps Russia, next), it becomes a source of control for the totalitarian regime.

Gruber doesn’t think this will happen, but it should. These pocket computers are supremely important to communications and it’s well past time for Apple to open things up.

Tacoma Looks Great; Out August 2nd

The creators of Gone Home have a new game coming out. This time you are playing the role of protagonist Amy Ferrier on the Tacoma space station. Here’s part of Andy Kelly’s review at Windows Gamer:

The first wing of the station I can access is Personnel. Now pinned to the floor by artificial gravity, I walk into a communal dining area and an AR recording flickers to life. A timeline appears on the HUD allowing me to scrub through the memory, pausing, rewinding, or fast forwarding at my leisure. The crew, represented as digital silhouettes, are preparing for a party, and I’m immediately struck by how believable the dialogue is. It has a natural, conversational flow, never feeling contrived or overly expository.

The crew, despite appearing to Amy only as faceless, transparent figures, have nicely rounded personalities. This is thanks to the game’s impressively expressive animation and superb voice acting, which combine to create characters who buzz with life. At first the recordings don’t seem to be anything more than elaborate audio logs, passively relaying a story to you in a way games have been doing for years now. But the clever thing about Tacoma is how they cover a large area, with conversations spread between many different rooms. Say you’re observing an argument between three people and one leaves the room. If you stick around you might hear them talking about her quietly behind her back. And if you decide to follow her, she might confide in someone in another part of the station about what just happened.

The thing I love about these games from Fullbright is that they take something that is kind of ridiculous at this point, the audio log, and turn it into the centerpiece of their game. Taking an overused piece of gaming mechanics and turning it into something special drew me to O E S and Black Shades when their original developers took the escort missions that everyone loathes and made it the focus of their games.

Tacoma will be $20 and available on August 2nd for Windows, macOS, and Linux* via Steam and gog, as well as the Xbox One.

I’m looking forward to playing it.