SUPERHOT is a first-person shooter/puzzle game with a unique concept: time moves only when you move. Play through bite-sized levels to rid each room of its enemies and proceed onwards. However, there’s more to it than that as you may question whether you’re playing the game or the game is playing you.
Having to determine where the enemy is as you are shooting, as well as where their projectiles will be traveling, is such a unique gameplay feature that makes every level exciting and enjoyable. Not only that, but there are other factors to keep in mind as well, such as your ammo, reload times, throwing your gun when it’s out of ammo and melee combat.
One thing that I did find odd was that there is no HUD that tells you how much ammo your gun has remaining. This isn’t necessarily a complaint however, as it forces you to think more strategically by counting just how many bullets are left in the barrel so that you aren’t just blindly shooting willy-nilly.
SUPERHOT also isn’t just about guns; there are plenty of melee weapons and the like to use to your advantage. My favourite was the katana, but there was nothing more satisfying than picking up and throwing a glass bottle at the bartender’s head. Quite often, you’ll start a level without holding a weapon at all, forcing you to either find one, or take out the first enemy you see with your fists and grab it when they let go.
Once your done with the 2-3 hour main plot, SUPERHOT also features an Endless Mode that has you facing oncoming waves of enemies and a Challenge Mode that lets you play through the game with features like no speedrunning and katana only. I would’ve liked the main plot to go on for a little while longer, however these extra modes provide more longevity to a game that would be impossible to have a multiplayer mode.
The Nintendo Switch version of SUPERHOT features gyro controls that, at first, seem like a great addition. However, I quickly found it to not be as fluent as I would have liked it to be, often giving up with it and using the analogue stick to fine-tune my aiming.
The HD Rumble is quite subtle in SUPERHOT, mainly coming in to play when you are hit or when hitting someone. However what is great about the HD Rumble in SUPERHOT is that it creates the perfect balance of tactile feedback, blending seamlessly to the point where I had to actively pay attention in order to note it as it just blended so naturally.
Each level is quick and bite-sized, which is perfect for playing on the go. The odds are always stacked against you, with many enemies coming from all around you. However the ability to slow down time and survey your surroundings in order to gain the most advantageous approach is an one that they don’t have. This makes you use every small detail to your advantage, whether that be taking a second to find the best cover or line up your shot just right; each level has been laid out in a way that forces you to utilise your surroundings to the best of your ability.
Some levels are themed, despite its lack of colour. You may find yourself starting in the bathroom at a bar and as you come out, the bartender is ready to take their first shot with their shotgun – but before they do, you can throw an 8 ball at them; or, you may start off in a public car park, with a car coming straight at you, forcing you to jump over it. Each level takes creative ideas that prevents the game from becoming stale and repetitive (which, I’ll admit, was a genuine concern of mine going in).
SUPERHOT takes an interesting approach before you even get to the main menu. Everything begins in an online chat where a friend sends you a file that allows you to hack into a company’s files and play this “sick shooter”. After that, the main and start menu replicates this, requiring you to run “Superhot.exe” to play the game. All of this gives the game a very surreal atmosphere, almost as though you are being controlled or are part of an experiment. It sets the tone perfectly, without giving too many minute details.
The plot progresses through glitches and the chat continues as your friend sends you updates patches. As you crack further into the game, you become increasingly aware of your hacking actions and the game begins to speak back to you with flashing words on screen. It is a very unnerving feeling and it creates a peculiar sense of omnipresence that forces you to be aware of your role whilst simultaneously feeling as though you don’t have control.
Graphics / Art Direction
With a clean-white colour choice for its environments, SUPERHOT may come across as dull at first. However, this is done on purpose to accentuate the objects and enemies around you. With the strategic nature of the game, you need to be able to clearly identify bullets, enemies and projectiles around you, as well as their trajectories, so fleshing out the world with colour and detail would have been detrimental to the experience.
What does add flare to the game’s presentation is your enemies being made out of crystal as when you take one out, you are greeted with shards of various shades of red scattering which can be depicted as their blood. It’s a nice touch which provides colour and vibrance to what would have otherwise been an aesthetically bland game.
Music / Sound Design
SUPERHOT doesn’t have a soundtrack, but this may be the first and last time I say that that’s a good thing. Instead, sound of time speeding up and slowing down is heightened in order to provide a better understanding for the player to determine how fast they are moving.
The game also accentuates objects around you, down to the smallest detail like a fan picking up speed when you’re moving quickly. However the most useful aspect of this is that you are able to hear bullets fly close by your head, especially if you’re wearing surround sound headphones.
Final Score: 94%
SUPERHOT truly is one of the most unique gaming experience I’ve ever had. The gameplay, the level design, the simplistic graphics and the unusual sound design; it all comes together in a nice cohesion, emphasising your actions within each given moment. Top it all off with an engaging plot that provides context to its hook and it is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.
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- Belinda Cubitt