If for some reason you aren’t familiar with Superhot by SUPERHOT Team, it’s a first person shooter where time flows faster the more you move. While this sounds like it might be an easy game, what it turned out to be was a high tension first person puzzle game. Not only did the game give you a unique gameplay experience, the story it told was no less unique, involving a transhumanist conspiracy and wonky metanarrative elements.
To that end, Mind Control Delete is an amazing successor to Superhot While the stand alone expansion doesn’t have the meticulously crafted set pieces of the original game, instead opting for procedurally selected gauntlets of the game’s various stages, not only is the gameplay experience just as tense and enjoyable as the original Superhot, but the story it drip feeds you is just as intriguing.
Mind Control Delete begins with a basic tutorial, and a few short levels, reminiscent of the original Superhot, before the player is confronted with a non hostile figure sitting in a chair. Killing this figure makes the credits run, and shows a screen saying only “MORE.” Several repeats of this same level later, the game begins in earnest. The word "MORE" and what it can mean is a central theme of Mind Control Delete. It's what you see whenever you start the game after you complete the prologue, and after unlocking each new level. Most of the game's achievements have the word "MORE" in them.
As I mentioned above, Mind Control Delete operates differently from the original Superhot. Instead of linear series of challenges, Mind Control Delete puts you into an ASCII map, with each node on the map sending you into a random selection of levels, and you need to complete all of the levels in a node to complete it. To make this challenge more bearable, the game provides you with a safety net. Called MORE.core, this gives you three hearts, letting you get hit twice before needing to restart a challenge node. You can find additional .Core abilities during the game, including CHARGE.core, which reduces your maximum health but lets you speed towards an enemy and instantly pummel them, or Recall.core, which calls katanas back to your hand after it is thrown. There’s even HOTSWITCH.core like in the original Superhot, but it’s unlocked very late in the game. The core you select is what you’ll be stuck with for the duration of a Node, so if you get stuck, just back out and pick a new one.
You can also find additional abilities, called hacks, in the map. These can grant you additional health, heal you, grant you a random gun at the start of the map, or more. Once unlocked, hacks will be randomly granted to you between levels in a challenge node, depending on what core you have selected. You won’t get hacks that enhance CHARGE.core while you have HOTSWITCH.core installed, for example, and you won’t see Heal.hack while you’re at full health, but most of the hacks can show up at the hack selection at random, which can make getting your favorites a bit difficult at times. Apart from MORE, each core requires you to complete its own challenge node before you can permanently claim it for yourself.
The challenge nodes are comprised of a selection of several stages, with a few hack drops sprinkled throughout. The stages include stock action movie setpieces such as a dojo, an island villa, a bar, a kitchen, a disco, dojo, yakuza hideout, and more. You can start each level in one of several pre-set configurations, with new enemies appearing randomly through pre-set spawn points after clearing out an initial wave. Each level is completed after defeating a specific hidden number of enemies in that level. If you do something the game thinks is particularly flashy, it will prompt you to press r to see a replay. You can also just wait at the end of the level to see your movements in "real" time, and both of these saved and uploaded to the SUPERHOT 'Killsterest' replay website. They're also saved locally in case you want a copy for yourself.
Completing a node lets you move past it and move onto additional challenge, hack, or story nodes. The more nodes you complete, and the more cores and hacks you unlock, the harder the game becomes. Enemies move faster, have better weapons, their weak spots shrink, and some enemies fire bullets everywhere once they die. You also unlock new stages that can appear in the random selection of a challenge node.
The eventual goal of the game is to get to the fourth level of the map and beyond, which brings me nicely to the story of Mind Control Delete. In addition to the story nodes, which start vague but get more sinister as you continue, you also get major story beats after specific challenge nodes, and at the end of each level. In the nodes that complete levels, you return to the level from the game’s prologue, devoid of enemies, and have to traverse it, all while the computer tried to stymie your progress, both through discouraging messages and teleporting you back through the level with each message. At the end, you once again destroy the passive foe and black out. This is followed by the computer, in red text, lecturing you on the futility of your actions.
I don’t want to spoil what the game is getting at, so I won’t reveal the actual text, but I do want to speak about an aspect of the ending. The game is fairly short, so a skilled player might be able to get to the game’s ending in just a couple hours. The problem is that Mind Control Delete, after several very intense moments both in terms of gameplay and story, asks you as a player to sit and wait for two and a half hours, doing nothing, with the game open, while a progress bar fills up on screen. Granted, this could be worse, the wait time was initially eight hours, but still, this seems more like an attempt to pad gameplay time, rather than an attempt to get players to self reflect as SUPERHOT Team have stated. If you didn’t have to be playing the game for the timer to count down, that would be one thing, but a lot of players have edited their save file to skip the countdown, and I can’t say that I blame them.
At the end of the day, Superhot Mind Control Delete is an amazing expansion for Superhot, managing to combine the original’s time based gameplay with random challenges and power ups and a tantalizing story. It’s not a sequel, and never pretended to be, just an add on for those of you wanting MORE.
This review was based off a copy of the game provided by the publisher.