After playing through Pony Island with my partner earlier this year, I couldn't help but wonder: what other games this year will subvert with the player's mind.
Turns out SUPERHOT does. And it does it really well.
Everyone knows by now that SUPERHOT is a FPS where time moves when you move. Except that time sort of moves really slowly if you're not moving (to force you to make a decision).
But that's not quite the whole piece of the puzzle. It shows itself when you first fire up the game: instead of launching into a level, you're greeted with a DOS-like UI and a chat screen, where a friend introduces SUPERHOT to you.
This happens within the first few seconds of firing SUPERHOT up, so it's not a spoiler in case you're concerned.
What follows, however, is spoilers! So if you're concerned about finding out more than you'd like to know, turn back now!
Here's another image for an added buffer. And also because SUPERHOT looks amazing.
After about four levels in, SUPERHOT begins to change. You've finished the level, but the level isn't finished with you. The level hangs around, empty, devoid of "red guys" as the game itself describes them.
And then it starts to glitch. The view begins to warp. The world begins to fracture, like a loading screen from Assassin's Creed.
And then it hits: the company doesn't want you playing SUPERHOT any more. They've patched the game.
As you progress through the story, your interaction with your "friend" — who transfers the cracked versions of SUPERHOT to your PC — begins to change. The developers add password protection into SUPERHOT, and your friend doesn't have the password.
Eventually, you're able to guess the password and keep playing. But when your friend wants to play from himself, he begs and pleads. But you won't give it to him. You can't. Because the system — like that early moment in Pony Island, when the game takes over — assumes control. And the game tells your friend: don't play. You don't want to play. You don't want to be a part of this.
Eventually it becomes clear that the system is extracting your body from its mind. You're warned about this several times; the game even goes as far as to get you to promise to never open superhot.exe ever again. But, of course, you don't listen.
So the system takes things to the next level. If you won't heed its warnings, then maybe you'll heed a fist to the face.
Especially if you're the one delivering it.
There's no way around this.
And so the true theme of SUPERHOT becomes clear.
This takes place about three-quarters through the game, but there are still more twists and turns to be had. Needless to say, if you played Pony Island earlier this year and loved the way it subverted the user throughout, you have to play SUPERHOT.