Games Unconventional: SUPERHOT

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Tiger Louck, Staff Writer

           First, welcome back everyone, I have a lot of interesting articles planned for this year. For those who don’t know, this is a column about videogames that do things differently. The game I’ve chosen to discuss this time is a game made in the 7DFPS challenge, or the Seven Day FirstPerson Shooter challenge. Game jams (as they’re called) like these are hotbeds for interesting ideas, because they force the developer to focus solely on the big picture. They do this by giving them a time constraint anywhere from under a month to sometimes only four hours. This leads to some very small, short, interesting and unpolished games. The 7DFPS game jam lasts seven days, thus, developers only have seven days to build their game. One of the most interesting games that came out of this year’s competition was SUPERHOT. The game isn’t notable for any large degree of polish or length, but, like most jam games, it boasts a single core mechanic. In the words of the developer; “time moves when you move.” Allow me to explain: the movement of time is directly correlated to the movement of the player, so when you stand still, time stops as well, and when you you’re moving, time is moving right along with you. This mechanic gives the player all the time they need to figure out how to do something, but limited time for execution. Ammunition is also very limited, but it’s easy to hit targets (you can stand still and aim for as long as you want). because of this the game straddles the line between the shooter and puzzler genres. When you’re standing in the middle of one of these (admittedly quite picturesque) gunfights, frozen in time, it’s all about leveraging cover to keep as many enemies off you, and paying attention to the locations of the many bullets invariably pointed towards you.

           The art style is like looking through a thermal camera. This means that everything is a static-filled and grey, except for the enemies, who stand out in stark red (except for their cool black shades). There is a physics engine in the game, so objects do roll and tumble, but it has yet to be used in anything having to do with any puzzles, and is mostly for effect (windows shatter into messy pieces when shot). I will say the game can be a little hard to look at at times, but it’s not difficult to tell what’s going on.

           The most iconic scene in the game puts you in one end of a hallway, facing off against several enemies at the other end. You must run down the hall until you reach a gun, lying in front of them, dodging their seemingly endless supply of bullets along the way. This intense moment is a perfect showcase of the way the mechanic is designed to function; it’s not about giving you more time to react, it’s about giving you all the time you need to do so (not to mention dodging bullets is really cool).

           In the past many games have tried slow-motion mechanics, and in many games they are useful and well-done (here’s lookin’ at you, Max Payne), but they haven’t really mastered the matrix-like feeling that SUPERHOT has. The game’s other mechanics only serve to complement this. To pick up a gun, you simply walk over it, and when you use all its ammo, it is thrown away—no fuss involved. Because of how the slow-motion works and the simplicity of the controls, the learning curve for the game is almost nonexistent.

           This game is the first of its kind to use indirectly controlled time mechanics, and it shows a lot of promise. The developer, Blue Brick has already updated the game twice, with plans for more updates in the future. There’s also a bid to get on Steam with it’s greenlight program (Steam is an online PC game distribution platform, and Steam Greenlight is a way of letting the community decide which games go on it) and I think it’s well qualified to do so. SUPERHOT has great potential as a very different kind of puzzle game, and it’s well on the path to realizing it.

SUPERHOT is available for free in-browser at superhotgame.com/