There’s something to be said for a video game that’s self aware of the industry it exists in. If you’re into games in general you tend to see the worst practices in the news on a fairly regular basis. Either a new AAA title is a microtransaction heavy mess with little substance or a mobile app has become a grindy manipulative game designed to hook you in and try their best to get you playing for months on end just to sell you its currency. SuperEpic is trying something interesting not only having the narrative taking a very surreal view of how badly it could get if left unchecked but also giving you a glimpse of what its animal inhabitants are going through. Adding playable games on your phone as well (although thankfully without the ability to pay any money or having to install anything). Is the message worth a play though or is it simply preaching to the choir?
At first glance SuperEpic appears to be yet another indie Metroidvania title but there’s a lot more under the hood than first appears. SuperEpic plays a lot more like a fast paced 2D brawler with platform elements. You have light uppercut, fast forward and strong slow slam attacks all in a 2D action platformer wrapper. A fantastically satisfying combat system where each attack does damage dependent on your equipment which can be found by exploring and using the in-game currencies to improve your weapons and skills. You can easily find yourself stepping off the beaten track and getting beaten badly by enemies much higher level than you but the difficulty when you stay in the right areas is curved nicely and each zone is designed distinctively enough to figure out where you’re supposed to be travelling to.
If you die your mysterious benefactor will offer to resurrect you back where you were for half of your existing cash but this only works once per area, if you die again you’ll be re-spawned at the last save point. Quickly in SuperEpic your greatest asset becomes the map screen, helping you to get around. The info terminals hidden in each zone give important markers to the key shops, trainers and WCs (where you save and heal). Buying new items, finding and leveling up equipment to boost stats and take on more powerful enemies and bosses becomes a really nice gameplay loop that takes you through the story of breaking in to destroy the corrupt and evil Regnant Corp HQ.
SuperEpic has cleverly tied a fantastic game system into the core levels. There are multiple mini-games that can be found hidden as QR codes dotted around the map (on iOS this QR function is in the default camera app now, so simply load the app and point it at the screen to get a web-link to the game) Once you follow the link your browser will open a simple little knock-off flash-like game of a popular mobile title and you’ll be completing a fairly easy but unique challenge to get a code. Take that code in-game and put it into the security pad next to a locked bit of extra loot and bingo, a new bit of equipment or coins. You’re encouraged to play these when you find them as the equipment and coins help you deal with much harder enemies and bosses throughout. It helps that the games are all easy little enjoyable tasters of the originals and they never overstay their welcome. The store buttons don’t link to an existing store but tap to fabricated sales options that are all locked out with humorous digs at existing practices.
Switching from your Switch to your mobile for a short break actually helps SuperEpic with its pacing. There is a fair amount of exploring and backtracking to get keys to unlock doors and these little breaks are one hit wonders that pack enough enjoyment to cover the fact that the core gameplay never really progresses much. The main mobile addition to the core gameplay that lasts the longest is a simple clicker game that rewards you with prepaid cards for in game currency. It’s a nice touch but re-entering 15 digit codes for each card without the touchscreen can be incredibly tedious. Obviously grinding for coins and codes in mini-games would all be horribly unethical but the story of SuperEpic is literally tied to these ethics and everything is made in a way that parodies the worst the video games industry has to offer in a really charming and enjoyable way. The key is to play them as they’re designed to, get the clicker game generating PigCoins and leave it going while you play the core gameplay only coming back to it when you want a quick break or your coins could use a top up.
The presentation and audio in SuperEpic is top notch stuff. There are visual and audio nods to classic games that are refreshingly brief. Little in-jokes and nods to other franchises that are there for effect and passed by before they become stale. The music tracks are great but they do loop quite quickly. This does however help navigating such a large map and there is enough music in the game to keep each area distinctive. SuperEpic is also full of pleasant surprises such as a retro 8-bit section that requires a small amount of trial and error to clear. It’s quick and over before it becomes tedious resulting in a welcome little challenge rather than a slog through repeating gameplay. There are choices to be made in the dialogue which although aren’t drastically game changing are a a welcome touch and further a really well made narrative which is fantastic throughout. Meeting up with another mysterious raccoon and llama combo as you play and seeing the story to its natural conclusion.
Everything in SuperEpic runs silky smooth in both handheld and docked. The combat is so fantastically smooth and I found myself experimenting with combos on enemies with some going down quickly with uppercuts into smashes and others requiring special quick dash moves to land first before the main beat-down occurred. Skills use your rage meter which builds by using regular attacks in combos and stamina recovers over time. You can be knocked back by any hit resulting in rare instances of being bounced between enemies but you’ve tools to fight back and using items to heal up from the damage caused. As great as the combat is the platforming is where SuperEpic skips a beat; The wall jumping and pogo jumping for higher reaching areas can be fiddly at best and frustrating at worst. Thankfully you barely need it and you’ll be zipping around forgetting about it simply double jumping to victory instead.
There’s plenty to do in SuperEpic before the final boss and the end credits play out (you’ll love the song as it’s a delight) You can upgrade your health bar, your rage bar, stamina bar, buy items, every piece of equipment, upgrade that equipment and even unlock every skill using gems (there is even a llama hadouken). The map can be entirely discovered and if you free every prisoner and destroy every camera you can unlock a Mario-esque ‘true ending’. This is before you go back to the main menu and play a prototype SuperEpic rogue-like version where everything is procedurally generated. The prototype mode has little digs of self awareness pointing out that without a fixed map it results in characters that are less interesting and a story that’s a mess. Even with this admittance they have added in little options to make it fun regardless.
I don’t usually go out of my way to play Metroidvania titles and although I love Iconoclasts it’s not in my usual wheelhouse of games. What this meant was despite playing huge amounts of SuperEpic and trying to cram it into a weekend I was still stuck trying to figure out where a key to progress was. Having totally missed the obvious I found myself backtracking everywhere and yet I simply didn’t mind. It didn’t matter if it was a robot being in the way of me zipping through a corridor or a mouse with a snooker cue determined to chip off a little health, I still found myself taking down enemies for fun and zipping around the map to unlock all 100% in total. It felt like a huge undertaking but in the end it was just a super epic. A lovely message about corps getting too greedy and trying to have the world when good enjoyable video games is enough.
8/10 – Superbly Epic
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