How do you innovate on a game that described itself as one of the most innovative shooters in years?
That’s the task developer Team Superhot faced when following up their hit indie Superhot. They originally planned for DLC back in 2016, but ended up releasing Superhot: Mind Control Delete as a standalone release on July 16. If you owned Superhot before the release date for the sequel, you got it for free.
Superhot is now on almost every platform imaginable, including virtual reality. Both the original game and the VR version are simple enough to quickly grasp, and are different enough and downright cool enough that they made me want to show others. In fact, when you finish the original, it tells you to tell others (via its metanarrative story) “It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.” They’re not wrong.
The main hook of Superhot is that time moves only when you move. That means when multiple enemies are coming at you with guns or melee weapons, you have time to set up your plan of attack, and when you’re in trouble, you have a chance to dodge bullets thanks to that reaction time.
The familiar minimalist art style returns with its clean look featuring white environments, black items and red enemies. But, there are a few new variations on the signature red enemies this time around.
That’s just one of the ways Mind Control Delete riffs on the original in meaningful ways while sticking to the proven Superhot formula. However, by adding several abilities, some of the simplicity that made the original so easy to understand, even for those who rarely play games, is lost.
Levels are no longer static like in the original. Instead, Superhot: Mind Control Delete is procedurally generated. There are 32 areas, and you will return to them several times each. Enemies will spawn at different times in different locations with different weapons. You are using a similar skill set, but instead of knowing when and where enemies will appear and figuring out a way through the chaos, you will have to stay on your toes constantly.
You’ll also have different abilities and perks, which will require different strategies. The result is a more tense experience, because everything is a surprise. Superhot is like when Neo in The Matrix asks Morpheus if he will be able to dodge bullets.
Superhot: Mind Control Delete represents Morpheus’ response: “When you’re ready, you won’t have to.”
This game gives you so many tools at your disposal that you can dominate without dodging bullets. The tradeoff? Dominance is required of you. You have to clear several levels while only taking one or two hits.
Mind Control Delete’s campaign is based on nodes, which include sets of levels. You have to clear a set number of levels to complete the node. Complete all of them and you progress. Failing to do so resets the node.
You start a node by picking which “core” ability you want to use. My go-to ability was called charge, which allows you to teleport across the room (from a limited distance) and punch an enemy. It’s perfect for closing space to an enemy when you’re vulnerable. Plus, they drop whatever weapon they were holding. If you play it right, you’ll never be defenseless for long.
At various points within a node you have the option to choose between two perks. Some may involve moving faster or starting a level with a weapon. Certain perks can even combine to be incredibly effective. Once you get a hold of what each ability does, you start to feel very powerful. Team Superhot does a nice job of forcing you into tutorials for most of the abilities to show off what they can do. You are limited in which ones you can choose from, which means you can’t abuse the same ones.
The red enemies are much smarter than in the last game. They organically seek out and reach for weapons that a fallen enemy may have dropped. Sometimes they’ll even run away from you if they are unarmed. They’re not the greatest shots, but they’re not stupid either.
All of this forces you into different situations, which keeps the gameplay fresh for a while. However, the latter part of the game drags on. You have to clear nodes with more than 10 levels and the difficulty ratchets up. The result was heart-pounding tension that led to excitement and relief when I finally cleared a tough node. On the flip side, there’s plenty of frustration after clearing a dozen levels only to lose and have to do it all over again.
The campaign should last several hours and could easily go over 10 if you struggle in certain parts and do the optional nodes. There’s also endless mode and other ways to continue playing after beating the main game.
The metanarrative returns, but is more in the background until the end. The game’s theme of “more” is amusing considering I probably could have done with a little less by the end of it. However, before reaching that point, the changes made for overall better gameplay.
Superhot Mind Control Delete improves upon the original in enough ways to justify its existence and a purchase if you didn’t already have the original to get the freebie. And if you haven’t played Superhot already, what are you doing?
Superhot Mind Control Delete is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Mac.
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