Superhot is one of my favourite games. I swept the original game in one sitting on a friend’s PC back in 2016. When it became available on Twitch I eagerly downloaded it, played through it again and investigated some of the bonus features – specific runs and the endless mode. I found it just as much fun as before, still capable of offering that feeling of being the ridiculously powerful main character in an action film.
Yesterday, it was announced that a new team were working on something called Superhot JP, a Japanese-themed version of the game with settings from across Japanese culture. Within that story, I learned that an early-access offering named Superhot: Mind Control Delete existed. I bought it straight away.
The game works under much the same premise as its predecessor. It’s a first-person shooter in which time moves incredibly slowly, unless you’re performing an action – firing a gun, moving, or picking something up, for example. Your enemies are waves of polygonal red men, who when shot explode in a shower of light and scarlet fragments. But while Superhot relied heavily on small spaces and well-thought out scenarios, SMCD changes the formula. Not by enough to ruin the experience completely, of course, but enough to leave a sour taste.
SCMD takes the formula and makes it hard. While Superhot was quite difficult at times, its complexity stems from the need to work out the optimal way through a situation. Often, you’re crammed into a tight space with the odds desperately stacked against you, and every movement counts as you try to battle your way out. But in SCMD, levels are opened up, and instead of a tight corridor or single elevator, what you end up with are sprawling maps populated by dozens of enemies. The result is that taking damage – rather than being part of the deadly trial-and-error process by which anyone completed Superhot the first time around, feels trivial.
That effect is heightened by the fact that it’s very easy to play through SCMD with game-breaking powerups. Playing as one character, you start with three ‘lives’, a feat which shatters the way you’re forced to confront the level in the first place. You’re also given the option to start the game with a pistol, and throwable objects almost literally litter every single environment. What that creates is a game that feels more like a generic shooter than a unique experience – Superhot relied on problem-solving in a way that no other shooter I’ve ever played has done, and yet there’s absolutely no sense of that in SCMD.
There were aspects of the game I liked quite a lot; New throwable weapons including shuriken, throwing knives and even CDs added some flair that even the original game didn’t offer; Towards the late-game, several enemies had weak points – chinks in otherwise impenetrable armour that you did have to work around more intelligently than just bludgeoning or shooting them; ‘Mines’ on floors, walls, and ceilings could be shot out to send a blast of debris through the room. But while the essence of Superhot has been captured by this spin-off, the structure of its levels and the very existence of its powerup smacks of a development team who have failed to capture what made the first game so special.