The original SUPERHOT’s time-only-only-moves-when-you-move mechanic allowed for some satisfying bullet dodging and action-movie-style fight choreography, like throwing a pool ball at an enemy to disarm him, grabbing his gun out of mid-air, then shooting a second enemy while the first one is stunned. Appropriately, SUPERHOT’s levels were designed like John Wick-style set pieces, where you’d suddenly find yourself fighting three enemies in an elevator, or crashing through a skylight into an enemy building. Those fixed levels made it more an exercise in combat puzzle solving than of pure fighting skill. The standalone expansion for SUPERHOT, currently in open access on Steam, clearly has different priorities.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE, which just got a major update for the new year, adjusts the SUPERHOT formula to make it more about managing the rhythm and strategy of combat. Instead of set-piece levels, you progress through rogue-like runs and fight through waves of enemies in new, more open environments. Unlike the original SUPERHOT, you don’t know where the next enemy will come from, or even where you’ll start in each level. That little shift in the design makes MCD a test of your ability to shoot accurately and manage multiple attackers, but also of your strategic planning and discipline. If you get too focused on one enemy, you’ll be constantly caught off guard by another that snuck up from the side. If you insist on firing your gun empty every time, you’ll quickly find that sometimes it’s better to throw a weapon at an enemy just to disarm him. The slow motion element isn’t just about pulling off cool combinations here; it’s a way to make the fights more tactical.
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE has several new gameplay twists that make the less structured levels more interesting. Combat in the original SUPERHOT was fairly simple: some basic melee options, a handful of guns, scattered throwable items, and one super power that let you “hotswitch” into an enemy. SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE pads out the weapon options a bit with one new powerful gun and a set of one-hit throwables like ninja stars and throwing knives. But the most noteworthy change is the four super powers that unlock as you progress: the classic hotswitch ability, an extra heart of health, starting with a katana that you can recall to your hand after throwing, and a “charge” punch that lets you instantly close the distance to an enemy. At the start of each run you choose which of those main abilities you want to use, and then as you progress through the run you get to pick smaller ability upgrades. Some of those upgrades are simple buffs to your movement or reload speed, but some are a bit more fun — using a melee weapon to swat bullets back at the enemies is a particularly satisfying.
All those new powers don’t make MIND CONTROL DELETE too easy, because the enemies have gotten some improvements too. In the original SUPERHOT, you could clear many combat-heavy levels and challenges by simply camping an enclosed space and forcing the enemies to come to you. MCD disrupts that strategy with the occasional spike-covered exploding red dude, who will easily take you out if killed in an enclosed space. Some enemies also have “concrete” parts that are nearly invulnerable, forcing you to make precision shots at their weak spots — which sometimes is just one arm or leg. The recent update added an even scarier new threat; on some of the harder levels, the waves will include one special opponent who has one of your own superpowers.
So far SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE is shaping up to be an interesting extension of what made the original game interesting. The new features all push the player to think carefully about each move, and view the slowed down time as a valuable resource.
MCD is available now in Early Access on Steam for $11.99, but when it releases it will be free for anyone who owns the original game at that point.