Supraland Review 19.99
Developer: Supra Games
Release Date: 2019-04-05
Game description: "Try the demo! A mix between Portal, Zelda and Metroid. Explore, find secret upgrades, solve puzzles, beat up monsters, find new abilities that help you reach new places." - http://deathball.net/supragames/supraland/
Supraland is sometimes really great
Supraland is a total enigma. On one hand, it is an extremely well-designed first-person, lateral-thinking puzzle game with a ton of creativity, along with a wealth of satisfying puzzles to be solved. On the other, it has some frustratingly obtuse solutions to some of its core puzzles, occasionally questionable humour, and moments where it simply isn’t fun. It regularly wavers between being a game I absolutely love, and one which I can’t possibly recommend. Now, months after having completed it, I come out somewhere in the middle – Supraland is ultimately a worthwhile experience, but also has some pretty significant caveats.
Supraland comes from German developer Supra Games, a very small team (three developers overall; but most of this game is credited to one person – David Münnich). It has a very distinct look, a hybrid between minimalism and hyper-realism. All of the characters are essentially single-coloured flat shapes which have very simple animations. These characters are super tiny, but live in a big world. This world they occupy is a vibrant, detailed depiction of a sandbox in the middle of someone’s backyard. It makes great use of the UE4 engine, though sometimes its motion blur did get a bit distracting (at the time of playing, it couldn’t be turned off).
Its gameplay is often interesting, and it’s clear that Münnich drew influence from games such as Portal, Zelda, Serious Sam, The Witness, Metroid, and The Talos Principle. While I wouldn’t say it is a perfect hybrid of all of those listed, I would say that it does a fairly good job with using some of the best ingredients from each of them and making a pretty compelling gameplay loop. There are many secrets to be found, upgrades to be had, and puzzles hidden in places you wouldn’t expect. It feels somewhat like Mario Odyssey in that you’ll seemingly glitch your way up some random cliff, and be surprised by finding a chest waiting for you at the end.
Supraland isn’t all about puzzle solving, either. It has a fair amount of combat which ranges from feeling pretty fun to pretty bad (depending on the encounter). Enemy designs are largely fine, though I’ll admit that by the time I was finished, I preferred avoiding the majority of combat encounters rather than engaging with them.
With regards to the more puzzle-y side of things, the game hands out new gameplay mechanics at a steady pace, and has many of them. When you get a new ability, the scenarios it throws you into are a pretty gentle ramp to get used to your fresh, shiny tools. By the end, it is combining all of them in some pretty fantastic ways!
It also isn’t a short game – I spent a decent amount of time working through side content, and had my fill after about 17 hours. It’s good value for what you’ll pay ($20 USD), and has a significant demo if you’re interested in giving it a shot (all progress carries over to the full version of the game).
There are many praises to be sung about Supraland, but I think there’s also many small grievances which piled into a more significant collection of them by the time it had finished. Both the story and humour left me with a feeling of “should I be laughing at this?” at certain points.
But sometimes it really isn’t…
The humour can sometimes be quite funny, honestly. It is very referential, with one dig at Call of Duty sticking out as being pretty laugh-worthy to me; but equally, its referential humour can feel a bit too on-the-nose and leave you shrugging rather than laughing. While a lot of the humour is pithy and innocent, it does occasionally throw in some head scratchingly off-tone jokes which really didn’t hit at all – ones which can come across as glorifying sexist and/or racist rhetoric. If it was just one, I’d say “okay there are some cultural differences between North America and Europe, maybe something was lost in translation,” but given that it comes up a handful of times, I must give a bit of pause when thinking about if I agree with some of the sentiments at play.
There are a few story beats which are interesting takes on things such as religion (“what if all religions are the same?” type of thoughts) but I’d also say that, by the end, the commentary which is put forth by the story falls flat and ultimately comes across as a bit petty. I respect anyone who wants to put their own views within their creative works, but I don’t know if I cared for some of the lukewarm-to-medium-warm takes Supraland tries to convey. Again, sexism and making light of sexual assault doesn’t play well to me (specifically there is a puzzle solution which involves getting women to be attracted to someone purely because he appears to have accolades – they don’t think about it, and instead just blindly follow whoever appears to be most successful).
Compounded with commentary which left a sour taste in my mouth, there were gameplay moments which had me wanting to just be done with particular sections. Puzzles which had such frustratingly obtuse solutions that finding the answers more often felt contrived than clever; busy-work puzzles where the answer was obvious, but the execution took time rather than thinking; combat which feels imbalanced/difficult compared to everything else you’ve done; a very mediocre final puzzle; et cetera. This isn’t made better by the soundtrack or sound effects – the majority of which are forgettable.
There is a lot of good to say about Supraland, and I do have fond feelings for a lot of my time with it. When at its best, it is an impressive feat which is worthy of anyone’s time; but at its worst, it leaves me with the feeling of “I don’t want my friends to think I agree with what this game is trying to say.” In the end, it is an extraordinarily creative puzzle game with a significant amount of content to be explored and experienced; but also one which can be actively unfun to play, and occasionally expresses some feelings you might either find funny, or really gross. I somewhat recommend it, but you should maybe expect to bite your tongue every now and again.
- Clever mechanics
- Some great puzzles
- Occasional laughs
- Troubling commentary
- Some really bad puzzles/encounters