The original SUPERHOT is easily one of my favourite games of the generation. It had a killer central hook, marketed as the “FPS where time moves only when you move”. Whilst this is not strictly true as time does still move when the player is stationary, albeit very slowly, it resulted in gameplay that was both addictive and tense. By having time dependent on the movement of the player, it meant that every step the player took needed to be carefully considered as every step was a risk. It did all this with style to boot too, with basic monochrome visuals, smooth animation and bullet time effects. It was a short experience, lasting only a couple of hours, and left me wanting more. When I found out there was going to be a longer sequel, I was excited. More is better, right?
Developed by the SUPERHOT team, SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete began as DLC before developing into a full-fledged sequel. It continues the basic gameplay loop of placing the player in an environment filled with objects, weapons and enemies where players must use their movements to navigate a safe passage through the levels and kill enemies. Alongside its increased length, Mind Control Delete adds some rogue-lite elements where levels follow a basic design but have randomised elements, such as weapon and item placement and enemy generation. Also added are some abilities called hacks, and a player can choose between these before the start or at certain points during a node. Each node has around 5 – 8 levels, and the player has to complete all these before continuing onto the next node. This time around players have 2 lives, but these have to cover the whole of the node – if the player loses all their lives during the node, they have to start it again.
Those who have played the original will get into this sequel pretty quickly as the core gameplay remains the same. I was able to effortlessly slip back in, side-stepping bullets, throwing items, catching enemy guns and firing at others. At first it can seem like it is pretty much the same game, with the art style retaining its simple and stylistic appearance, but it starts to become clear that there have been some changes. There are more weapons available, with one new gun, a rail gun, and others like pencils, knives and pots fill each level. There are more enemies in each level, and these continue to spawn until the player defeats a set number (which the game doesn’t stipulate). With the random placement of these items and the spawning of enemies, there appears to be more choice about how to play, giving the game an action feel instead of a puzzler like the original. Early on, this was a welcome change of pace, making decisions and adapting on the fly made me feel like John Wick. This is bolstered by the ability to block bullets with a katana and the abilities that can be added with hacks, including being able to deal damage by jumping on enemies or throwing items that explode. There are different enemy types too, with one type that explodes and others that are only weak on specific limbs, forcing the player to prioritise and adjust. All these additions appear to add variation; however, it becomes clear that Mind Control Delete suffers in this area.
There are a number of themed levels in Mind Control Delete, such as a disco or a prison setting. These rotate and repeat from node to node with randomised elements, like enemy spawns and item placement. The problem is that these differences feel pretty minimal, and it isn’t long before going through these levels begins to feel repetitive as the basic layout of each level remains the same. The structure of the game also limits creativity; by giving players a couple of lives to last a whole node, it discourages the player’s creativity as losing lives toward the end of a node can be extremely frustrating. Taking undue risks by trying to be creative would often result in having to start the node again. This also made it so that when given the choice of hacks between levels, I would often opt for extra lives instead of one of the new abilities.
A pattern was developing with each new level: I would start by quickly throwing whatever is available at the nearest enemy with a weapon and use that to eliminate another enemy. Due to the lack of variation in the levels, I was able to memorise good vantage points and make my way to these. From this point on, the basic AI meant I could funnel the enemies in to a choke point and easily defeat them. As this was the most effective way to progress, I continued to do this without being pushed like I felt like I had in the original. Later on some new enemy types are added, enemies that have their own abilities and are invulnerable. These change the gameplay somewhat, forcing the player to avoid these enemies whilst battling other enemies, but their invulnerability becomes more of an annoyance than a challenge. In a late game node, more variation is added where the layout of the level shifts as the player moves. However, this is a fleeting feature and one that I wish the game had focused on more. It could’ve been an interesting way to shake up the gameplay, but the game soon reverts to type. Without an engaging narrative like the first game, I found myself dragging myself through the later parts of the game, my early excitement transforming into disappointment.
The first SUPERHOT was a perfect and tight experience that showcased a gameplay hook that was both refreshing and exciting. It left me wanting more. However, this sequel demonstrates that more is not always better as we see time and time again in this generation of bloat. The hook of time stopping when the player stops still remains a fun mechanic that, unfortunately, gets diluted by a game that outstays its welcome. By switching to a rogue-lite shooter, Mind Control Delete soon becomes a repetitive experience that lacks focus, and sadly, by the end I was forcing myself to finish. Supernot.
Developer: SUPERHOT Team
Publisher: SUPERHOT Team
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 16th July 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete was provided by the publisher.