Superhot Review – Time After Time

The most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

01

Developer: SUPERHOT Team
Publisher: SUPERHOT Team
Format: PC
Released: February 25, 2016
Copy provided by Steam

The original demo version of Superhot gained huge amounts of attention, and with good reason. A first-person shooter where time only moves when you do, it presented a concept so deliciously simple, it’s a wonder nobody had thought of it before.

Superhot‘s final form is no less clever, taking the premise and running with it to provide a series of ingenius and challenging levels, as well as endless arena modes and the ability to save and edit replays of one’s own performance.

Each level’s overall goal is fairly simple – eliminate the red guys, whose featureless and polygonal forms relentlessly pursue the player with fists, guns, and melee weaponry. It takes only one hit to put you down, but they can’t do a damn thing until you do.

When you’re stood still, the world is almost motionless. Enemies are very nearly frozen and bullets hang in mid-air, moving at an almost imperceptible pace. The faster you move, the faster everything else moves. This allows the player to perform ridiculous maneuvers, punching enemies and snatching their guns before they hit the ground, dodging incoming ammunition, and tossing katanas directly into unwitting faces.

Progression through a level is, naturally, incremental. You can take as much time as you want to assess the situation, but each move could be your last as you’re surrounded by aggressors and a single misstep could see you catch a fatal bullet.

While you can rush through a stage (and I have no doubt highly practiced players can eventually play this like a regular FPS), the idea is to take it slow, be wary of the environment, and manipulate time to avoid the incoming fire while performing tricks no other FPS allows for.

02

Superhot feels like an interactive version of the fight scenes from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, with players in the role of a protagonist who can outthink their enemies so swiftly the fight is won before it’s even started.

The game’s minimalist aesthetic and clear color coding helps make the game readable, with environments in white, enemies in red, and interactive objects a stark black. Bullets are black with red streaks, identifying them clearly for avoidance.

All black objects may be thrown to make opponents drop their weapons or just delay them, and whatever they were holding can be grabbed and turned against them so fluidly that it’s never not satisfying to pull off. Eventually, players will unlock the “Hotswitch,” allowing them to swap bodies with opponents and further opening up the potential for tricky moves.

Upon completion of a level, a replay shows the action without any of the time delays, showing off just how cool you looked dodging gunfire and flipping shotguns on people. While the game’s pitch-shifted announcer declares “SUPER! HOT!” over the footage, it’s hard not to feel like the smoothest dude in Swaggertown every time you get through a stage.

Superhot is presented from a hub that resembles an old computer monitor, like a less visually assuming version of Her Story. The initial campaign lays the metaplot on thick, following in the popular footsteps of such games as Calendula and Pony Island. As new levels unlock, players engage in story-driven chat sequences with online NPCs, as well as receive threatening notes from mysterious forces.

04

It’s a cute story, and its conclusion is entertaining in a cheesy way, but it also feels somewhat detracting in a game that needed no narrative and feels intruded upon when exposition rears up. The breaking of the fourth-wall is starting to become an old trick before it’s even really had much time to develop. While it’s not quite Superhot‘s fault, it’s a case of bad timing with so many games dabbling in it right now.

This campaign, however, is just the beginning. There have been complaints that the standard two-hour story makes for a short game, but such criticism ignores the fact there’s much more to do beyond what is essentially the tip of an iceberg. There is a whole host of unlockable endless arenas, challenge stages, and time trials, while the very menu itself hides all manner of secrets and weirdness.

Using KillstagramSuperhot‘s own social network, players can share their edited replays, placing movies of their performances online for an audience of hundreds of thousands. It’ll be interesting to see if this feature has longevity or will expand in any way, but right now it’s a fun little extra and a great way to show off one’s finest moments.

 Superhot could have featured more detailed characters and environments, but I’m not sure I’d have preferred that. It’s easy to say the game looks threadbare in its current form, but I love how clear everything is.

The lack of detail works to produce a definitive clarity, making a game that’s impossible not to visually understand – a crucial element for a game that can be rather tough and requires complete spatial awareness. Besides which, there’s just something glorious about watching a head shatter like glass when it’s shot.

03

 Quite frankly, I think Superhot is absolutely bloody fantastic, and one of the best examples of how a single idea can be iterated upon to create dozens of clever scenarios. It tries a bit too hard to be clever with its writing, but the core of the game is almost perfect in its purity, with all manner of twists and stunts to be discovered through experimentation.

You’ll see talk online about how Superhot is “the most innovative first-person shooter I’ve played in years.” It’s a phrase people who’ve played the game keep using, and there’s a memetic reason for that -one I won’t spoil. I will, however, have to say that I’m on board with the sentiment of the phrase despite any potential ironic usage. Because it is simply true.

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Good dog.

9.5/10
Superb

Dillon Rafferty
Guest
Dillon Rafferty

I enjoyed the story :(, also I’d hardly call pony Island undertale and this a trend in fourth wall breaking certainly not an egregious one considering those are the only games up to this point that ive really seen do this.

Clark Kent
Guest
Clark Kent

Undertale, Pony Island, IMSCARED, Calendula and Superhot. Five games in as many months, that’s quite a lot.

Decibelle
Guest

To be fair to IMSCARED, the original one came out way back in 2012, I believe? So that one can probably escape that specific criticism.

Bosch
Guest
Bosch

Yeah, IMSCARED is pretty old. And… considering the sheer size of the games market, is four games in nearly half a year really “quite a lot”? Especially with a storytelling concept as old and commonplace as “breaking the fourth wall”?

Nutarama
Guest
Nutarama

The problem is more that games with fourth-wall breaking narratives also tend to be good in other ways, generating critical praise. This creates the impression that breaking the fourth wall means instant critical praise, which in turn could lead to tacked-on fourth-wall breaking narratives.

Undertale and Superhot are both games that would be very good without any fourth-wall breaking. Undertale’s endings would need to be slightly rewritten, but just the idea of the “Mercy” option and enemies becoming friendly NPCs is enough.

Bosch
Guest
Bosch

That’s not a bad point, overall. I’m not sure I’d consider it necessarily “tacked on,” though. The difference between that and “included” is simply whether the beholder feels that it adds to or detracts from the experience.

Joel Ojeda
Guest
Joel Ojeda

if you are not sure about the “length” or the “overpriced” aspect of this game, well this game is all killer no filler. Sometimes a short but satisfiying game is all you need and i can tell you something important a lot of games miss, overstaying their welcome. if the price scares you get it rigth now on GOG.com for 10 bucks.at that price there is no excuse for you to try it. Make your Move!

MoonTiger
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MoonTiger

GOG price is 22.5$, far from 10. It has a 10% sale 🙂

Joel Ojeda
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Joel Ojeda

Well something went wrong at GOG.com cuz i paid 10 bucks there lol!

bob doe
Guest
bob doe
I personally found the game incredibly short, the “challenge” mode was just recycled levels with different handicaps. Though I did enjoy the game and its mechanics I felt the asking price of $20 plus was too much for too little content for a game that I will probably never play again. It felt like it was trying “too hard” to be the new querky game that everyone will be quoting: hence “The most innovative shooter I’ve played in years……” Innovative? Yes, interesting story or narrative… no. First time I’ve ever asked steam for a refund and was happy to get… Read more »
Gervasius
Guest
Gervasius

Damn, really? I thought the challenges were different levels altogether added as a side game si they don’t elongate the story more than it needs to be. Feel like this is something that should have been mentioned.
Looks like I’ll be waiting for a sale.

bob doe
Guest
bob doe

Granted I didn’t explore every aspect of what was unlocked after beating it. Steam refund policy is 2 hour or less of playing the game and I was already thinking of asking for a refund. They have various challenges such as melee only, sword only etc. etc on the levels you already played through on the main game. They also had a “endless” mode on a couple different maps. Yeah I would wait for a sale.

Grazer
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Grazer

I’m right with you. It’s a really fun game but there just isn’t $20 worth of content. There are different modes and settings but they’re all seemingly identical.

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

It’s a first person puzzle action game. Do you really expect some deep complex story telling here?

Gervasius
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Gervasius

Can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic, but many first person puzzle games are extremely story heavy.

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

If you are talking about the old MYST games and such than yeah, but most modern representatives of the genre have a throwaway story that is only there to give a excuse for solving puzzles.

Za_Docta
Guest
Za_Docta

Have you ever heard of this little-known indie title called Portal? It’s a first-person puzzle action game with a deep complex story. I think you’d really enjoy it.

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

The story of Portal was never deep, in fact the story was the main thing people complained about in Portal 2 as it was shoved in between the puzzles.

Jakub Nytko
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Jakub Nytko

Portal’s story was 2 hours long if you squeze all the dialogs. In fact most of the game consisted of puzzles and your intelligence determined how long the rest will be. Yet i have spent dozen of hours replaying it. I can easily see Superhot may end up the same.

nicethugbert
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nicethugbert

It’s on GOG too, btw.

Kintari
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Kintari

> a concept so deliciously simple, it’s a wonder nobody had thought of it before

You mean except every terminal-based roguelike since Rogue?

thrownerror
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thrownerror

Please explain how Rogue is a time manipulating first person shooter?

Bosch
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Bosch

Well, they said sans the first person part. Though… I’m as lost as to how the hell Rogue resembles this in the slightest, and I’m a long-time roguelike grognard. Zangband was my jam for years.

thrownerror
Guest
thrownerror

When I wrote my response, the “sans first person” wasn’t there.
I guess an argument could be made for it being effectively turn based, but time never truly stops except in a challenge mode.

Bosch
Guest
Bosch

Aha, fair enough then. Yeah, it’s…. KINDA similar to being turn-based, but besides that it’s not, that’d be something it shares in common with… well, a hell of a lot of games.

Billy Bissette
Guest
Billy Bissette
There are various games that blend turn-based with simultaneous movement to be effectively what Superhot does. The main distinction, other than the “first person shooter” part, is that such games generally have time not move at all when the player isn’t moving. One example would be Wazhack, a 2D sideview Roguelike that drew plenty of inspiration from Nethack. Rather than using fixed turns like classic Roguelikes, time only moves while you are performing actions (or holding the “wait” key). If you are constantly acting, the game is effectively real-time, but you can stop time simply by no longer pressing any… Read more »
Alex Blackmore
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Alex Blackmore

It’s variable speed (with the variance being tied to movement), you could make the argument that’s it’s similar to turn based gameplay, but that would be rather disingenuous – in practice it’s rather more nuanced than that.

Billy Bissette
Guest
Billy Bissette

Like I said, Wazhack isn’t turn based. It is effectively a real time game, but one where time only advances while the player is active. Tap a movement key for a fraction of a second, and you (and the world) move for a fraction of a second. Hold the key and you (and the world) move as long as the key is held.

Alex Blackmore
Guest
Alex Blackmore

I meant my post as an affirmation of yours rather than a challenge my friend. 😉

That said the fact that time does still, albeit very slowly, move even when you are motionless separates it out from the pack. Heck even looking around results in a perceivable speed increase.

Nutarama
Guest
Nutarama

Not really. If time moves slow enough that you can plan but not slow enough that you can walk away, is it any different than playing a turn-based game with a turn timer? “This bullet will hit me in 3 minutes” is effectively identical to “This bullet will hit me next turn and that’s in 3 minutes”.

Alex Blackmore
Guest
Alex Blackmore
I see what you’re getting at, but I’d argue that it doesn’t quite work out that way in practice. For starters it places simultaneously emphasis on conservation of movement and on decision speed – something that IS emulated to a degree in some turn based games (Valkyria Chronicles in particular jumps to mind here) but is made more apparent with simultaneous action. For example: there are methods of stopping bullet in motion, for example slicing them with the sword – though you have to time this correctly. The fact that you do have to time it to be at a… Read more »
Kintari
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Kintari

It is a time manipulating third person shooter. Made back when 3d didn’t exist.

Warwick Stubbs
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Warwick Stubbs

Echoing the price issue. It is expensive for a short game, but I definitely do want to play it. Let’s hope there’s a steam sale.

Matrim
Guest
Matrim

I like the idea, but the price point puts me off a bit…also not a big fan of the AI from what I can see. There’s content there, but not sure how much it appeals to me. Will likely pick it up if it has a significant sale at some point.

Maelstrom
Guest

Ugh. I want to play this game so badly, but the price is just too much for its short length.
I guess my cheapness will prevent me from getting it until it goes on a nice sale.
Oh, and I’m not someone who goes for completing everything, btw.

Gervasius
Guest
Gervasius

“one of the best examples of how a single idea can be iterated upon to create dozens of clever scenarios.”
Also one of the reasons I loved Gunslinger so much! Although this game does have the added bonus us of being original.

Nitrium
Guest
Nitrium

“When you’re stood still, the world is motionless. Enemies are frozen solid and bullets hang in mid-air. ”
Sorry Jim, but that is technically not true. Things DEFINITELY move, even when you don’t. Words like “frozen”, “hang” and “motionless” mean exactly that – not “moving very slowly” which is what is actually happening.

Nighter3D
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Nighter3D

Correct. when standing completely still time still moves a very slow pace. even looking around accelerates time a little bit.

Hu Deegan
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Hu Deegan

Thankfully there is a mode in…..I think the Challenge section, where everything is fully motionless when you aren’t moving, which I think was how the original version played (unless my memory of it is terrible)

Gervasius
Guest
Gervasius

Nah, the prototype also had very minimal movements. Ironically, the game was often too fast for people to notice at the time.

step1999
Guest
step1999

Note however that Fullstop mode places additional limitations on you as well, with each gun only having one bullet and enemy bullets travelling faster.

John Smith
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John Smith

No, Jim. Cyndi Lauper was not Super Hot.

Great review though.

Jonas Håkansson
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Jonas Håkansson

She was and is.

AlreadyFlying
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AlreadyFlying

But it is hyper-reality; Enemies spawn at ridiculously fast rates and in the stopped-time that you have transferred from one body to the next, all of them have already trained on your new one. So basically you can never trust what you knew about behind you because every slightest move yields up to four directions of targets that are about to kill you. At this point I wish it was top-down perspective because I would find that checking and re-checking repetitive and tiring. Game made for people with OCD.

step1999
Guest
step1999

The sound and visual cues for enemies spawning make up for that IMO, I rarely felt like I’d been cheated. Some way to tell what weapon they’d spawned with would be nice, though (maybe deeper pitched spawn sounds for more dangerous weapons, and vice versa?)

chrisbrady
Guest
chrisbrady

I want this game. 🙁

c00ch
Guest
c00ch

So, Jim, is the review for Devil daggers next? By far not as innovative, but one of the most engaging shooters for years.

gasmaskangel
Guest
gasmaskangel
I really, really like the game itself but personally I felt the story was right up its own ass. Like you said, it felt like an unnecessary complication of what was otherwise a wonderful time, and personally I immediately start to roll my eyes as soon as it pulls the trick of having what you type be something utterly different than what you entered in the first place. It does that from the start, and then doubles down on it in a moment that feels like it was meant to be sinister and shit, but because it never put the… Read more »
Warwick Stubbs
Guest
Warwick Stubbs

Imagine if a sequel turned all that on it’s head, was longer, with a far more satisfying story arc. That’s something I’d pay (almost) top dollar for.

Immortan Joe
Guest
Immortan Joe
I enjoyed the story and wouldn’t have minded for it to be longer even though I do think it was somewhat pretentious. Jim said that the whole metagame thing has been a trend lately, but I personally haven’t actually played any games with a story like that before this one so it felt pretty fresh for me. I also usually enjoy a sense of mystery and a creepy atmosphere as well as stylish visuals. If the story was longer, I think they should have some of the additional modes unlocked right at the start, because the story admittedly does kinda… Read more »
Ashrand
Guest
Ashrand

Having played the 7DFPS version the story was at the time the ‘other’ interesting thing the game did.
Guess that’s what happens when you take your time with a game, someone eats your lunch

Kylr Avery
Guest
Kylr Avery

I would feel the same way if I felt like “I” was the main character, but once I framed it as simply playing the main character in a cyberpunk thriller it seemed much less “up it’s own ass” as it were and just seemed like a clever way to frame why we were playing SUPERHOT in the context of the game.

spyro2060
Guest
spyro2060

First, Plants Vs Zombies 2 and now this, two games you’ve given almost perfect 10’s to, this is shaping up to be a good year for games, there’s also Fallout 4 DLC (cause I bought the Season pass, good decision it seems cause I got it prior to the price increase and I’ll still get all of the rest of the DLC) coming this month so I’m looking forward to that

Robert Merlin Cahill
Guest
Robert Merlin Cahill

“Asses the situation” typo. Interested in the game.

JonnyDoLake
Guest
JonnyDoLake

It’s a game made in Unity, by the way 😉

Jack R.
Guest
Jack R.

It looks cool, but I won’t be buying.
Why?
Because for a 3 hour game to be $25 is a bit much.
I do want it, but I feel like the price is way too high for what they are offering at the moment.

Jack R.
Guest
Jack R.

Unless of course, someone has a spare key, in which case, HELP A MAN OUT!

dan958
Guest

3 hour story mode. There is an endless mode with lots of levels and many MANY challenges. The story mode is basically the tutorial.

Jack R.
Guest
Jack R.

does that replayability make it worth $25?
not trying to sound condescending, but actually curious because I’m interested in buying

Decibelle
Guest

I believe it is. There’s a ton of content you can get out of it beyond the story mode, enough that I’ve kept myself entertained.

dan958
Guest

Oh, most definitely. You can think of it as kind of like a puzzle game. I would recommend watching TB’s video on it.
You can also get it in a bundle with some other games for £16 on Bundlestars

Jack R.
Guest
Jack R.

thanks dude!

zero2dash
Guest
zero2dash
Do you buy all games (including those that are not RPG) for their single player story/campaign mode exclusively? I’d hope that the answer to that is “no”, so what’s the difference here? Oh, it has no multiplayer. Well, fortunately it has an Endless mode with levels to unlock (and varieties within), and a Challenge mode, with even more variety. KATANAONLY sounds easy, but on some levels, it’s not. I really enjoyed the Ghost in the Machine challenge mode, which reverses the game’s color scheme and opens up all sorts of possibilities (since you can Hotswitch from level 1). If I… Read more »
Matrim
Guest
Matrim

“Do you buy all games (including those that are not RPG) for their single
player story/campaign mode exclusively? I’d hope that the answer to
that is ‘no'”

My answer is almost always “yes,” not sure why that’s a bad thing to you.

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

Jim points out the story mode being just a small part of the game. Yet people still complain.

The game has a score attack structure and tons of levels to go through. Good luck A’ing them in less than 15+ hours.

Yuntu
Guest
Yuntu

And some people don’t really like stuff like that and rather have a story that keeps them occupied. I totally get what you mean but for some people, like myself for example, this isn’t worth it.

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

Then just don’t buy it. Not every game has to be liked by everyone. There are niche titles that target specific tastes. A complete opposite of SUPERHOT would be the Tell Tale games where there is a ton of story but little o no gameplay.

Yuntu
Guest
Yuntu

And that’s what I’m going to do. No need to get kinda defensive about it – just pointing out why some people may not like it/think its worth a purchase. Never said the game NEEDS to be that way.

dan958
Guest

Hi [FRIENDS_NAME_HERE], you have to check out this game. It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

cowboyjimmy
Guest
cowboyjimmy

Give a dog a bone, leave a dog alone

let a dog roam and he’ll find his way home

petethepanda
Guest
petethepanda

SUPER.

Maslab
Guest
Maslab

MOIST.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

CAKE

Matrim
Guest
Matrim

PAN

Mitch
Guest
Mitch

FLUTE

MechaSlinky
Guest
MechaSlinky

PUSSY!

Stephen Mc Devitt
Guest
Stephen Mc Devitt

So many great games far. I’m scared you’ll up doing an award for 10 games later this year.

Alexander K
Guest
Alexander K

Should’ve been “SUPER! B!”

XanderBeast
Guest
XanderBeast

I want more games like this, this game is awesome, really hope that this developer is going to make something great as this in the future