It’s well documented that mainstream AAA video game publishers are a toxic blight on the industry, deserving of nothing but vitriol and scorn, as they continuously devise new and ever-scummier ways to exploit their audience for cash.
…According to some cynics at least.
Enter SuperEpic, a metroidvania-style action platformer that presents itself as a humorous satire on the video game industry (you can tell it’s satire because there are pigs wearing business suits in it). The year is 2084, and only one video game company remains: the sinister RegnantCorp. This evil enterprise has hooked almost the entire world on its vacuous games, which have been carefully designed to encourage addiction and excessive spending through malevolent microtransactions.
Not everyone has fallen under RegnantCorp’s control however, and it’s up to a small band of resistance fighters to free the world from the company’s greedy clutches. Two such heroes are our protagonists, a raccoon called Tan Tan and his trusty llama, who doesn’t speak and is so utterly superfluous to the experience that I’ve completely forgotten his name. I was expecting the pair to be a wise-cracking double act who could bounce witty dialogue off each other; but unless llamas represent some complex Animal Farm-style allegory that I’m too dense to figure out, I’m honestly not sure why he’s in the game.
Gameplay-wise, SuperEpic sticks very closely to the classic metroidvania formula. The game’s large interconnected map gradually unfolds as you find keys, items, and unlock abilities that allow you to access new areas. The combat is (in theory) quite rich and varied, with separate weapon slots for upward swipes, downward slams and horizontal attacks; all of which can be upgraded separately. There are also a variety of special moves you can purchase using gems you find throughout the map. The only problem is, I never used any of them.
Almost every enemy in the game can be easily stunlocked with a relatively fast horizontal weapon, so I breezed through the whole game without using anything else, making the gameplay feel very basic and repetitive. You could argue that I’m the one who made it dull for myself by not utilising the fighting choices presented to me, but I think players need to be forced if you want them to learn a complex combat system. I had to adopt a careful and methodical approach in Dark Souls because if I didn’t, I got sliced up like kebab meat. I’m not going to voluntarily learn fiddly combos when mashing ‘X’ is more expedient and equally effective.
Despite the fact that I only ever used one of my three weapons and ignored special attacks entirely, I only died a handful of times – all during boss fights, and usually because I wandered into a boss room by mistake. SuperEpic as a whole did feel quite unchallenging, though. I easily beat the final boss on my first try, and I only lost a fraction of my health bar; which made me feel a bit silly for stocking up on so many healing energy drinks.
Perhaps the one unique and interesting thing about SuperEpic is its minigames. A few optional secret areas are locked off behind keypads, but to get the combination you’ll need to scan a nearby QR code with your phone and complete a short satirical mobile game. The first one I came across was an obvious Flappy Bird knock-off, and to my surprise it was a genuinely brilliant parody. Firework effects go off every time you tap the screen, with words like “Awesome!” popping into the air; constant achievement notifications appear such as “First Obstacle!” and “10 Taps!”, then you reach five points and the screen explodes in a flood of congratulatory messages. As you progress further through the game though, the minigames become longer, more challenging and a lot less fun, so you might not even want to bother with most of them.
SuperEpic sells itself as a satirical comedy game, so it’s worth analysing the comedy and satire elements of the game a bit deeper. A raccoon and a llama does sound like a suitably wacky team up for a comedy game, but we’ve already discussed how Ola (the llama is called Ola apparently) doesn’t provide any words, let alone laughs; and Tan Tan the raccoon… just isn’t very funny.
I wanted a quippy, smart-arsed protagonist. I wanted a sarcastic wise-cracking hero to deliver the game industry some well deserved mockery. But he mainly reacts to the various enemies in the game with genuine bitterness and fury, even calling the final boss a “fascist pig” before launching into battle. I’m sorry, am I playing as Tan Tan the llama-riding raccoon or Marcus Fenix?
I’d actually say most of SuperEpic‘s satirical elements come from its visuals, especially in the brilliant enemy designs. Not only do you get the obvious pigs in suits, but the legal department has blindfolded ladies running about wildly swinging swords, RegnantCorp’s head of microtransactions is a vampire, and each enemy disappears in a dollar-sign-shaped puff of smoke when they die. The levels are all nicely designed and varied as well, with the catchy retro soundtrack adding a generous dollop of charm.
As far as story goes, “you are trying to take down RegnantCorp” pretty much covers the first 90% of the game. There are obvious hints that things aren’t quite what they seem, but without spoiling anything, things just get really confusing and a bit meta towards the end and I’m left unsure as to what point they were trying to make. There are multiple endings available, but the ones I saw like a huge let-down. My first attempt got me a crap ending, but after I reloaded my save, I did a bit of exploring and found some more keys to release all the prisoners in the basement. After that I got a slightly less crap ending.
It was clear that I was meant to do even more completionist rubbish to get the super extra good ending (you know, one that actually concludes the story), but I’ve no idea what that might be. I’d earlier spent three hours wandering around the entire map looking for an upgrade that would let me access the final boss room, but I didn’t come across anything obvious that might unlock a better ending. Oh that’s right, my entire playthrough took about eleven hours, and three of them – over a quarter of my time in the game – was spent desperately searching for a single unexplored room containing a pogo stick.
But here’s the thing, I don’t think I was just making myself do this out of a sense of professional duty. I’ve had a lot to complain about, but SuperEpic is still quite fun to play, and I never found it difficult to keep coming back to fight and explore the twisting halls of RegnantCorp. The story, writing and combat are disappointing; but it’s all very stylishly presented and the exploration feels rewarding, with countless secret areas and items to discover. A unloackable roguelite mode adds more variety and streamlines the experience, disposing of some of the game’s weaker aspects. So if you’re a big metroidvania fan, there are still some nuggets of enjoyment to find here.
I’ll just never forgive how long it made me play that god damn clicker game.