Dodging bullets on the go has never felt so SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT.
To date, SUPERHOT VR is the most immersive virtual reality experience that I have ever had.
I say this not as a means of any predisposition towards the latest Switch iteration of the first-person shooter where “time moves only when you move,” but merely to express that at this point, SUPERHOT is generally a known quantity in the game industry. Its concept is well-established, its platforms are diverse, and its audience is vast. If anything, the mobile space is currently the only gaming platform where SUPERHOT cannot be played.
So when Nintendo announced during their Gamescom Indie World presentation that SUPERHOT Team was making their popular first-person shooter available that day, it was a relief to Switch owners. One of the more well-known games of the last few years has finally arrived on a Nintendo platform, especially one that can be taken portably with optional gyro controls. How does it hold up? Put simply, it’s a blast.
If this your first foray into the world of the extra warm, SUPERHOT presents the player with a series of monochromatic, white and grey rooms to clear. The obstacles are polygonal, red-orange enemies that have pistols, rifles, and shotguns at their disposal to take you down. As the player, time is your greatest tool when it comes to surviving these challenges. The oft-repeated tagline of “time moves only when you move” rings true here, where combat plays out similarly to a turn-based strategy encounter.
Patience is rewarded in SUPERHOT. You read the environment, decide how to dispatch an enemy target by anticipating their actions, and move throughout the space at your own timely discretion, dodging bullets along the way. Fortunately, a selection of black weapons are littered around each room for you to pick up and use. If those aren’t satisfying enough, you can throw your weapon or an object to stun an enemy, grab their weapon that’s flying towards you, or just settle things with your fists. It’s a delicate dance at the speed of your choice, and because one-hit kills are at play in this world—no matter where shots land on your enemies or on your own body—learning through repetitive trial and error is essential. After clearing each room, the player is rewarded by watching their perfect run in real time, without any time manipulation, to completely relish in that action-hero fantasy.
The narrative begins simply. A friend of yours has messaged you on the piOS “operating system of the future,” wondering if you’ve played something called “superhot” yet, and that he’s “never seen anything like it.” From there, he sends you a superhot.exe program to run and before you know it, the gameplay takes over. It’s a setup that does its job adequately, yet as the plot developed throughout the adventure, I found my mind returning to think about different aspects of this software premise.
SUPERHOT’s graphics and sound design won’t impress players at first glance, but the effectiveness of both truly lies in their simplicity. In a white and grey world, players need to identify red enemies and black weapons quickly, so any other visual distractions are superfluous. That being said, red bullet trails are especially helpful for allowing the player to use time to properly dodge. Similarly, hearing gunshots and where they are being fired from is everything in a controlled, first-person perspective, so there is no need to add extra intensity to the experience with a musical soundtrack. The use of color and silence is finely tuned to accentuate what is most important for this experience: the pure, distilled gameplay loop.
Since players may be returning for a repeat playthrough in this installment of SUPERHOT on Switch, it’s important to note what this version does differently than any others. For one, the Switch’s portability works like a dream for this game. The prospect of controlling the flow of time with character movement while you’re out and about is an enjoyable novelty, and the handheld setup also allows for easy, small breaks when some levels just seem too difficult at the time. The Switch version also allows for optional gyro control, for those who want that extra level of immersion. While it is functional, I found that it lacked the level of precision that the game required to properly place shots in some of the later levels, at least when it came to my personal control tastes. Fortunately, this is an option that is easily toggled in a flashy on-screen manner with the (-) button, without having to navigate menus for enabling the setting. Regardless of control scheme and input device, players will find a means of navigating the world and shooting weapons that works perfectly well for them.
Upon an initial playthrough, players should expect to spend about 2-3 hours to reach SUPERHOT’s credits, which is a sweet spot based on the mechanics that are presented. Performance issues during gameplay were negligible, with the only visual hang-ups appearing in a TV static effect that is used to mask loading the environments. While the last few levels may represent a steep difficulty spike with a seemingly excessive number of enemies, it is absolutely worth pushing past them to see how the story resolves itself. Furthermore, players are encouraged to continue their SUPERHOT experience with the unlocked Endless and Challenge modes, though your mileage may vary here. Ultimately, the amount of content here should strike a balance for all kinds of players, even if some may balk at the campaign’s duration before they play it for themselves.
When I reflect fondly on my previously-mentioned SUPERHOT VR experience, I think about looking fully around the environment, physically ducking to avoid bullets, and even using a throwing motion to launch objects across the room. While that version was exhausting and exhilarating, SUPERHOT on Switch feels like an ideal complement with its encapsulated, portable, and original take on the adventure. For players who are looking to jump into the world of SUPERHOT for the first time, Nintendo Switch feels like the right place to get shooting and moving.
It’s as your in-game friend tells you: you’ve “never seen anything like it.”