The beauty of SUPERHOT is in its reverse use of the action replay. Usually, you watch in real-time and see the action replay at a slower pace, to really appreciate the finer details of what you’ve just witnessed. In SUPERHOT you get the opposite, and it is applied to starkly-designed gun-fu action. You play in relative slow motion, then see the fruits of your destructive labor in regular time, letting you marvel in the quick and ruthless chaos you’ve just caused.
You’re playing a secret computer program that reenacts Hollywood-style action set pieces in a largely blank white world, where certain objects are grey and any person is a polygonal red humanoid shape. From a first-person perspective, you are in control of when the action starts and stops. Every time you move the world moves with you. You can look around before committing to doing so, but otherwise, everything plays out at a significantly slow pace as you figure out how to get through the scene unscathed. A guns-blazing action game that just happens to be a slow-paced puzzler.
In each scenario, bad guys are moving towards you, ready to take you on with fists, baseball bats, knives, guns, and more. You, with the benefit of effectively having bullet-time on your side, can survey the area and take appropriate action.
Say a goon with a gun has you in his sights and all you have is this skill and a nearby pool ball. You pick that pool ball up, hurl it at the goon’s gun hand, causing him to release his grip on it and as the weapon tumbles through the air, you move forward, grab it from the air, and fire it point-blank at the goon’s face, which shatters into red crystals. This gloriously cool action is but a small part of a larger scale fight. SUPERHOT is extremely good at making you feel like you could take on an army of John Wick clones and not be out of breath at the end, let alone very, very dead many times over.
That might not sound all that different from most action games on the surface. You’re an action badass like so many others, but you are as fragile as your many opponents. Take just one hit and it’s curtains for you. There’s no surviving a ship essentially landing on you or heading back into the fray after healing twenty gunshot wounds by hiding behind a bin. No, this is a puzzler first, and to be hit is to have failed, meaning every small movement has to be calculated. That’s SUPERHOT‘s unique selling point, it fuses strategy with action in a fresh and inventive manner, and makes you look good in the process.
Each sequence is relatively brief, making it a good fit for an on-the-go console like the Switch, but these sequences have replay value to them. For starters, there’s never just one exact way to pass them, especially as you end up in increasingly complex scenarios with bad guys coming at you from all angles. There’s a natural flow to fights as a result, rather than a rigidly choreographed brawl, so coming back to them provides ways to experiment. Like any great action scene, feeling compelled to see it again and again shows it’s done its job, and SUPERHOT definitely belongs in that company. The fact you can alter them with different choices is what adds to that compulsion.
SUPERHOT‘s port to the Switch seems to have come off without any hitches. The very setup of SUPERHOT certainly makes it that bit less intensive for the console to run, but it’s honestly almost exactly like its PC-based kin with the added bonus of portability.
SUPERHOT is one of the most interesting gaming fusions of the decade, and it’s been pulled off spectacularly. It leaves you wanting more, which is exactly what it should do. On Switch, its bite-sized action set-piece puzzles have found their most natural home.
SUPERHOT review code for Nintendo Switch provided by the publisher
SUPERHOT is out now on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4