Superhot: Mind Control Delete Review — Hacking the System
Superhot is back with hacks and cores to master, and new enemies to shatter.
It’s happening again. Red polygonal people chasing you, with you breaking them open to see them bleed golden light. The system is taunting you once more, but this time, things are a lot more action-packed. New enemies, weapons, and levels achieve this very well in Superhot: Mind Control Delete.
The original game launched back in 2016, with you trawling through digital levels while refusing to adhere to orders from the “System,” killing red enemies that were hell-bent on killing you. But now there’s a new installment, this time in the form of a standalone experience that builds upon the successful gameplay from the original. Now you get to enjoy a more time-pausing dependent system with roguelike gameplay to really keep you on your toes.
Superhot: Mind Control Delete starts off similarly to the original, guiding you through the general time-moves-only-when-you-move gameplay mechanic. I mean, you may be new, or you may not have played the game before. But then it lures you into a false sense of completing the game fairly quickly before resorting to the whole, “Haha, got you. Now the game truly begins!”
You’ll find yourself having to progress through what are called RUNs, with each completed one unlocking the next. While some RUNs unlock distorted story text, there are also cores and hacks to unlock. Cores are permanent abilities for that selected RUN, while hacks are abilities you can apply throughout a RUN at specific points. I’ll explain these in more detail shortly.
Imagine RUNs being chapters that consist of numerous levels, as you can see in the above image, each “stop” is shown as red text. Each level is randomly chosen from a list of locations such as the kitchen level, the bank, or even a sewer. You’ll go from level to level until you complete all levels in a chapter without dying. If you die, you’re sent back to the first level. Along the way, you’ll have maybe 2 or 3 chances to apply a hack from a randomized selection of two unlocked hacks that will remain with you through the chapter unless you die.
But what are hacks? Hacks are unlocked after completing some RUNs and have you enter a quick training level to try out your new ability when you first acquire it. Hacks can range from refilling hearts, exploding throwables, bullets that pierce through enemies, a strong punch, etc. The fact you can only choose from a randomized selection each time the option appears means you’ve got to go for what hack you think will benefit you. Do you heal your hearts, or go for the ability to stomp on an enemy?
The other thing is cores. These special RUNs find you basically using the core through the whole run, and once you complete all levels, you acquire it to your core library. Only one of these cores can be selected at the start of every RUN and will be present throughout every level on top of any hacks you assign while progressing. Cores can come in the form of having extra hearts, having a charged punch, switching bodies, and my favourite, having a katana you can recall.
Having cores and hacks added to the gameplay actually builds a brilliant combat experience. While you’d think they’d help you, sometimes they can be a hindrance and you need to get a bit more strategic. For example, I found myself only choosing the hack to punch bullets back at enemies providing I had a heart to spare in case I cocked up. Not knowing what hacks I was going to be offered also added to the suspense in ways that made me question how I wanted to approach a level. Slowly and timidly, or with quick steps and potential clumsiness to rush through.
Generally, Superhot: Control Mind Delete is best played strategically. After all, the levels are cleverly designed to ensure you’ve got enough cover, but also contain so much open space that you’re able to become quickly overwhelmed. Throwables are scattered throughout levels so you’ve usually got things available to throw, but most require you to turn your attention away from the enemy. This, of course, means you’re making time move unaware of an enemy running around the corner with an assault rifle.
Weapons come in the form of throwables such as ashtrays, fish, and the like. Melee weapons such as shurikens and katanas join firearms such as pistols and shotguns. There are many more types of weapons too, but generally, you’ll find yourself lobbing guns at enemies anyway because it’s quicker than reloading.
As for enemies, they seem to grow smarter, learning to dodge bullets themselves and trying to outflank you. There are also new enemy types that ramp up the challenge. Some foes start to have specific body parts you can hurt, some have weapons you cannot take from them, there’s a samurai or something, and there’s a damn dog-headed one. I hate it. Essentially, the dog head is invincible and chases you, encouraging you to kill and finish the level before it manages to maim you to death. Honestly, it changes the pacing so much that I actually started panicking.
The weapons, enemies, and clever levels all wrap the game up to become an incredibly enjoyable experience with the roguelike elements ensuring you’re constantly thinking strategically. The challenges that come with each level are always unpredictable, but I found the fluidity of the time-moves-only-when-you-move style encouraged me to keep going at it. And sometimes, I’d complete levels in ways that felt like they needed to be captured and boasted about online.
And that’s entirely possible with Superhot: Mind Control Delete’s new replay editor, but I don’t like the replay editor. It’s a bit naff. Not only is it a bit confusing to understand and control, but it never seems to capture the action as it happened with time-moves-only-when-you-move active. Movements feel unnatural, the camera’s too smooth, and it’ll show throwables/bullets heading off way before when you actually sent them. Evidently, everything really is better in slow-motion.
There’s an endless mode that’s unlocked at one point, allowing you to go through levels you’ve previously played. This finds enemies growing harder the more waves you progress through. You’re given the option to choose your core before you start an endless level, and as you get through so many waves, you get to apply hacks, adding more on as you survive. I honestly loved this mode, feeling like I could really utilize and enjoy the combat mechanics without the lingering sense of permadeath blocking progress. However, the further into the waves I got, the more dedicated I was becoming to staying alive.
What I like about Superhot: Mind Control Delete is the audio design and the music. The majority of the time, RUNs are fairly silent with just diegetic audio playing out such as gunshots, crashes, and shattering glass. However, any moment the story is progressing there’s a lovely, haunting soundtrack that plays. While these segments separate the gameplay from the story, I felt there needed to be more music in general.
The perfect example comes in the form of the Disco level, in which you can hear the upbeat soundtrack slowed when you’re not moving, then when you do move, it plays the music in real-time. The music, both slowed and real-time, really helped increase the tension and intensity and made me want other levels to have a prominent, upbeat track.
But then, the absence of music isn’t a negative point, so let me be clear about that. Superhot: Mind Control Delete’s world has enough audio cues to keep you embedded in the atmosphere. Directional gunshots, the hellish rumbling when the dog enemy has arrived, the beeping of a nearby bomb activated either by attacking it or getting close to it.
There needed to be more visual cues, though. There are red glows emitting from areas enemies are appearing from, and if an enemy is behind you you’ll have “Watch your back!” flash up. But there could have been more done with indicators for off-screen bullets, darker UI elements to stand out against the white aesthetics of the world, a clearer reticle and perhaps something like a glow or shading to determine an object’s distance for interactivity.
Control-wise, I felt Superhot: Mind Control Delete was easy to maneuver, requiring only the WASD keys, and about three other buttons to grab objects, throw them, or use core abilities. It is about precision at the best of times, timing a dagger throw to hit an enemy’s red leg, or punching a bullet back with your bare hands. With this precision in mind, and the clever scattering of objects in the level, if you mess up, then chances are you’re dead. This is especially true when you see a wall of shotgun bullets entering your face with no escape.
Really, Superhot: Mind Control Delete is a very fun experience that builds on the success of the original game and improves the already well-done mechanics by adding more. The combat feels enjoyable and the challenge that comes with all of these new abilities left me feeling like I was mastering the game.
But that experience was short-lived in a good way when the enemy AI became more challenging and more types spawned. My comfort zone of hiding in a corner became a hindrance when the demon dog thing became involved, and opting for close combat was a mistake when the exploding enemies were introduced.
It’s a game that will have you striving to get through the levels to unlock more hacks and cores, but the endless mode is where it really lets you go to town on everything you’ve unlocked. If you were a fan of the original, you’ll be right at home in Superhot: Mind Control Delete.