To be honest I didn’t really expect a follow up to SUPERHOT as it pretty much set out what it wanted to do and I wasn’t really sure where it could go from there. Unbeknownst to me the developers had quickly iterated on the concept and a year after its initial release debuted the MIND CONTROL DELETE (MCD) expansion into Early Access. It’s then been 3 years of iteration and improvements with the developers getting to a point with it recently that they felt confident to make it 1.0 and bless all loyal backers of the original game with a copy. Not knowing anything about what MCD was I figured it was worth at least seeing what the go was and honestly it’s pretty interesting although it does overstay its welcome somewhat.
Ostensibly kicking off from the end of the previous game MCD puts you back in charge of killing red guys in a stark white environment. You’re told in no uncertain terms that there will be no closure, no penultimate moment, instead all you’re offered is more: more killing red guys, more weapons and more ways to hack your mind. It becomes clear quickly though that you’re not the only one who’s seeking more of this experience and there are others out there who’ve gone down the same path you have before and…might not have come out of it for the better. Will you continue to play, even though there’s nothing on offer?
There’s definitely been some improvements in the graphics over the years, even if on the surface it retains the same stark white aesthetic of its predecessor. The lighting is a lot more modern with the harsh shadows gone and replaced with a much more natural soft-edge that amplifies the whole blurred reality schtick that the game puts forward. The art style has changed dramatically though, where the previous one was a bit more true to life, so to speak, MCD is much more angular and glitchy. It was pretty subtle at first but looking back over my screenshots from both games it’s very clear that there’s been a decisive change to make the environments more…I’m not sure what to call it. Still it fits within the game’s overall narrative quite well so I’m on board.
The core game mechanic of time only moving when you do remains the same however MCD’s difference comes in the form of it being a roguelike. You have a small map that you’ll be navigating through and each encounter on the map will be made up of a handful of different levels that you’ll need to complete to clear it. Each of those levels is randomly selected from a pool of pre-built levels and you’ll be placed in a random area of it to begin with. At the beginning you’ll pick a “core” which is effectively You’ll also be able to choose from 2 hacks every so often which start of mundane (like giving you another heart) but you can unlock ones which become game breaking when combined with others. Progressing through each of these sections unlocks the next set of nodes which may contain new hacks, bits of story or even new cores if you’re so lucky.
Combat feels very similar to begin with given that the hacks and changes made to the levels are relatively minor. However as you ascend levels things start to change up dramatically as you accrue more weird and wonderful mods. Couple that with the tweaks to the levels (such as exploding enemies or my particular favourite: getting your perspective wrecked so you can’t really tell how far away things are) and you’ve got a recipe for some really varied combat. This being a roguelike though those variations soon become stale as you see them time and time again. Indeed after the first couple hours with the game I felt like I’d basically seen all it had to offer and really struggled to keep playing.
This is where all roguelikes or procedural games fall down in my opinion; there might be millions of potential combinations but the actual number of variations is exceedingly small by comparison. To be sure it was great fun when I got a broken combo of hacks together and was able to breeze through all the levels at breakneck pace but often it was just the opposite. You’d get a handful of non-synergistic mods that’d really do nothing for you and you’d basically be back to a vanilla experience. For the shorter sequences this isn’t too bad, but for the longer ones (where you have something like 10+ sections to get through) it becomes a real chore. In the end I could only do a couple encounters at a time before getting bored.
The “boss” NPCs also don’t add a lot to the challenge either. Since you can’t kill them or really do anything to them really all they are is a moving obstacle. They’d be much more interesting if there was a (challenging) way to defeat/disable them instead of them just being another NPC that you have to avoid. I did read that in earlier builds there was a way to defeat them but that has since been removed in newer versions. It’s a shame really as I think the concept is strong, it’s just unfortunate that its current implementation doesn’t add much to the experience.
I had a pretty trouble free run with MCD bar a couple minor incidents and some technical hitches when I first got it running. For some reason MCD’s view of which of my monitors is 1 and 2 differs from what Windows thinks it is, which made it start on the wrong monitor to start off with. I also had a couple incidents in game where I got hit by something out of nowhere that I couldn’t trace back to anything I or a NPC had done. One of them was likely an exploding guy’s bullets teleporting to me rather than having a travel time but the others didn’t have a discernible cause. Not game breaking in the least but sure as shit annoying when it happens.
I kept playing for a good long while hoping that the story would develop a little more but it didn’t. I did make it to the last level but was denied the ending which, after some googling, was supposedly due to the amount of time I’d spent in the game. It was 8 hours at one point but it’s since been reduced to 2.5 however as of writing I’m still not able to complete the game. It’s possible there’s something else I have to unlock to get to that point (but I’m on the last “floor”, so….) but realistically I’ve given up. The story was so thin on the ground this time and the game play so repetitive that after 5 and a half hours I’m just done. I’m not even sure if I’ll track down the ending on YouTube at this point.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is a very interesting evolution of the original however in its current form it greatly overstays its welcome with repetitive, grindy encounters. The addition of the hacks, changing levels and other random augments does make for a varied experience to a point. Past there it just becomes tedium, pitting you against longer and longer encounters that deliver much of the same that fails to grab your attention. It seems I’m not alone in feeling this either as a whopping 12% of the player base has gotten as far as I have and fewer still has persevered right through to the end. It’s a shame really as beneath that grind there’s a solid core that’d be well worth the time, if only it was more succint in its delivery.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is available on PC right now for $34.99. Total play time was 5.5 hours with 64% of the achievements unlocked.