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SUPERHOT Review (Switch)

SUPERHOT is built around one simple concept: time only moves when you do. This unique concept creates a first person shooter unlike any other game on the market, with a distinctive blend of slow-motion action and deliberate strategy. But is it still the most innovative shooter in years?
SUPERHOT Review (Switch)

SUPERHOT Review (Switch)

Introduction

During one of SUPERHOT’s many fourth wall-shattering dialogue sequences, a character describes the game as “The most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.” Although it’s been a few years since the aptly named SUPERHOT Team first released the game back in 2016, that statement continues to hold true with its recent port to the Nintendo Switch.

This new edition of the popular shooter beautifully presents all the innovative style and action that made it so special on other platforms. Better yet, it comes with a handful of new features, such as gyro aiming, motion controls, and of course, the ability to play at home and on the go. While these enhancements don’t remove the few remaining issues from the original game, they do help to make this perhaps the best console incarnation of SUPERHOT yet.

SUPERHOT is available now on the Switch eShop for $24.99 or your regional pricing.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - "Killing red guys" sums up the story pretty well

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – “Killing red guys” sums up the story pretty well

Story

By its very nature, SUPERHOT isn’t a very narrative-focused game. After all, its core gameplay loop revolves around gunning down faceless red polygons in slow-motion – a setup that isn’t particularly conducive to deep storytelling. However, SUPERHOT does indeed have an overarching narrative – a vague, slightly confusing one, but a story nonetheless.

It opens with an instant message conversation between the player and an unnamed friend, who recommends a “sick shooter” called SUPERHOT. This friend sends over some files for the game, and the player is soon immersed in the game’s stylish action (more on that in the gameplay section.)

Fittingly enough for a game that’s all about manipulating time, SUPERHOT’s story focuses on a struggle for control. Not too far into the story, it becomes clear that this is more than a mere shooter. The game eventually attempts to wrest control away from the player, at times through menacing subliminal messages, and at others through physical harm. It’s a story that delights in breaking down the fourth wall between fiction and reality.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - The story shatters the fourth wall just as much as you'll shatter this red guy

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – The story shatters the fourth wall just as much as you’ll shatter this red guy

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that SUPERHOT’s narrative is super short. I played through almost the entirety of the story on a single charge of my Switch’s battery – and considering how quickly 3D games can drain the standard Switch’s battery, that should tell you about the campaign’s remarkable brevity. Again, this gameplay concept doesn’t need a deep narrative to drive it forward, but it’s a shame that the story finishes so quickly, in only a little more than two hours.

Likewise, the story can also feel excessively vague, to the point where it hardly makes any sense at all until the very end. It does what it should – it provides a little bit of context to the game’s bountiful slaughter of red polygons. However, it doesn’t strive to go above and beyond in the slightest, which is a little disappointing since there was potential for a more in-depth story.

Gameplay

This is where SUPERHOT truly shines. Most shooters are incredibly hectic affairs, stuffed to the brim with breathless fast-paced action. SUPERHOT differentiates itself from this stereotype with one simple idea: time moves only when you do. Whenever you stay still, every bullet remains suspended in midair, enemies stick frozen in place, and time itself screeches to a halt.

Of course, every shooter is inherently all about strategy: you have to decide where to move, who to take down, how to use your weapons, and so on. But SUPERHOT’s unique approach emphasizes the inherent strategy of shooters. In fact, at many times SUPERHOT is more comparable to a puzzle game or turn-based RPG due to the way it forces you to slow down, take stock of your situation, and carefully plan your next move.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - Time only moves when you do, so you can stop and look at this bullet as long as you want

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – Time only moves when you do, so you can stop and look at this bullet as long as you want

Whenever a game focuses so heavily upon one idea like SUPERHOT, it could easily become little more than a one trick pony, excelling in that single concept but failing in every other area. Thankfully, SUPERHOT doesn’t fall prey to this problem. While the core of the game remains built around its slow-motion action, it does a good job at messing with the idea of slow motion and producing many different takes on it, making the game compelling from beginning to end.

One way this is achieved is through its plentiful weapon variety. From handguns to machine guns to katanas (my personal favorite), there’s a wide variety of ways to execute your foes with ease. There’s also a few different gameplay ideas introduced as well, such as hand-to-hand combat, projectiles to throw, and later in the game, the ability to body swap with enemies. SUPERHOT might have only one signature concept, but it introduces plenty of varied takes on that idea to keep it engaging.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - Katanas are awesome for slashing and throwing - with motion controls!

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – Katanas are awesome for slashing and throwing – with motion controls!

As mentioned earlier, SUPERHOT’s main campaign is remarkably short, which is a bit of a shame. However, it makes up for this with a wealth of challenge modes, each of which is built on a unique gimmick. For instance, one may force you to only use katanas in combat, while another might limit you to only throwing your weapons These modes can’t replace the story content, of course, but they do provide an enjoyably different take on the core gameplay while using the same general level templates as the main story.

It also bears mentioning that the Switch version comes enhanced with one major addition: gyro controls. This makes a massive difference when it comes to aiming, allowing for a level of fluidity and accuracy that simply isn’t possible with traditional control sticks. There’s also optional motion controls to use for throwing or slashing weapons. Pair this with the game’s excellent performance and visuals, and SUPERHOT is possibly the best it’s ever been on Switch.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - SUPERHOT oozes with style

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – SUPERHOT oozes with style

Audio and Graphics

From the minimalist visuals to the hypnotic repetitions of “Super…Hot…” that follow every completed stage, SUPERHOT is an immensely stylish game. The entirety of the game is organized by color: every enemy is red, every environment is white, and every throwable object is black. This ensures a consistent visual style throughout, and the varying geography of each level design helps ensure that there’s just enough graphical diversity to keep the visuals just as interesting as they are constant.

However, this minimalism can still be a bit of an issue at times. For instance, every single enemy features the same faceless appearance and shape. This can make the action fall a little flat at times, since it gets monotonous to fight the exact same foes over and over again. At the very least, a unique final boss would have been appreciated. Another issue with the color scheme comes with the crosshairs. Since every environment consists of plain white surfaces, the white crosshairs can easily get lost in the midst of the action. Paired with the small size of the crosshairs to begin with, it’s often excessively difficult to know exactly where you’re shooting at any moment. It’s disappointing that the great visuals come at a slight cost to gameplay.

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) - Performance on Switch is excellent, no matter how many bullets flood the screen

SUPERHOT Review (Switch) – Performance on Switch is excellent, no matter how many bullets flood the screen

Regardless, that doesn’t change the overall quality of the graphics. They adopt a distinctive polygonal style full of hard angles and contrasting colors, and best of all, everything holds up great on Switch. Performance is always a (super) hot topic on Switch games, and thankfully, SUPERHOT nails it with silky 60 frames per second performance and crisp visuals that look great on both the handheld screen and the TV.

These visuals aren’t paired with equally striking audio; in fact, there’s hardly any music in the game at all. On the one hand, this does complement the stop-and-go nature of the gameplay, but on the other, the lack of any sort of soundtrack means that some moments in the game don’t have the same impact that they could have had with some musical accompaniment. At least the general audio design is excellent, with every firing bullet and shattering glass sounding excellent and protracted during the game’s many slow-motion moments.

Summary
SUPERHOT is proof that games don’t need to be packed with tons of complex mechanics to be engaging. Instead, it centers around one simple idea and realizes it to its fullest potential. It has a thrilling mixture of action and strategy that few other shooters have managed to achieve. This Switch version captures all of that excellence beautifully, with perfect technical performance and a few welcome additions as well. Indeed, the new gyro and motion controls might make this the very best edition of the game yet, aside from previous VR versions. All told, SUPERHOT remains a super cool game on Nintendo’s hybrid machine.
Good
  • Simple yet innovative gameplay concept
  • Variety of challenge modes
  • Added gyro and motion controls
  • Excellent performance on Switch
Bad
  • Short and cryptic story
  • Difficult to see crosshairs
  • Lack of music and enemy variety
8.5
Great

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