If there’s something that has been missing from the whole Metroidvania genre of games, it’s a healthy dose of satire. With the release of SuperEpic: The Entertainment War (henceforth just called SuperEpic), developers Undercoders are looking to redress this balance with a humour-heavy take on this category of games. Have they managed it, or is this just another also ran? Come with me to an Orwellian nightmare of the future.
The year is 2048, and the world of video games as we know it is dead. After a series of hostile takeovers, mergers and buyouts, there is only one manufacturer of games left on the planet. And are they benign video game overlords? Well no, and as you may expect to hear, RegnantCorp have decided that everything is going to be run in microtransaction form from now on. These games are now written with cynical algorithms designed to replace the fun with addiction, leading RegnantCorp to be able to pretty much control the world. Everyone is playing their games – seemingly almost afraid of not to playing in case they miss out on a rare item, such as a skin. Reminds you of a certain Battle Royale game, eh?
Anyway, every game needs a hero, and here is where SuperEpic starts to get a little weird. Not only is RegnantCorp run by greedy pigs, the hero is a racoon called Tan Tan, who goes into battle astride a llama called Ola. Yes, you read that right, a raccoon on a llama wielding melee based weaponry. See, Tan Tan intercepted a distress call while playing on his old, antiquated games console, and so the duo head on to bring ruin to RegnantCorp and the evil pigs. So, with the scene well and truly set, how does the actual game play?
Very well, is the short answer. The slightly longer one being that this is a game which relies on combo based combat, with Tan Tan having three different melee weapons at his disposal. These broadly translate into one for swiping, one for downward attacks and one for uppercuts. With the attacks mapped to the face buttons of the controller, with A reserved for jumping, the control scheme is simple to get to grips with, at least at the beginning of the game. Thwacking pigs with a stop sign is a lot of fun, and as you go on you’ll start to get a feel for which attack works best against which enemy. As an example, certain pigs are getting buff and throw dumbbells at you, whilst being able to block standard attacks. However, a swift uppercut attack, which sees Tan Tan apply a croquet mallet to a sensitive part of the pig’s anatomy, is enough to break their guard and lets you destroy them. It’s not exactly Queensbury rules, but if it works then all is good.
SuperEpic also has an RPG-lite mechanic applied to it, with progression through the game seeing the various merchants providing better items to buy. Upgrading the weapons Tan Tan waves about, as well as the armour that Ola can wear in the form of blankets, is essential to progress. Eventually you can find a blacksmith character to let you upgrade your weapons, and with a moves trainer to find who can teach new attacks the scene is set for exploration providing dividends. Defeating enemies sees them drop coins, but there is also a second currency available – that of jewels that can be used to purchase different things. I’m not going to say any more about this facet of the game, as exploration is its own reward.
Exploring the multi-level map practically begs you to find all the secrets, and will eventually lead you to a clever touch – one that I enjoyed immensely. You see, in SuperEpic certain rooms have a laser blocking the way, with a keypad nearby. On the wall of the room is a QR code, which if you scan it with your phone loads a RegnantCorp mini game. Beating these games gives you the code to put into the keypad, and adds another layer to the game. The mini games are simple enough, but are quite good fun, especially the one that seems to be modelled on the classic Frogger. This is a neat little idea that adds to the fun, and ensures that you will very much look forward to finding these rooms.
The other thing that exploration leads to is a classic boss fight encounter. Some of these enemies are huge mechanical beings, whilst others come in the form of a rat being carried around a room on a palanquin borne by her “slaves”. Each has a pattern to learn and exploit, and they are a good challenge to boot.
The look of SuperEpic: The Entertainment War is also decidedly retro, and boasts some very pretty sprites. With the graphics being fairly simple, the game engine doesn’t have to do very much heavy lifting, and as such the game runs at a great speed, scrolling smoothly no matter how busy the screen gets. And believe me, it will get very busy indeed as RegnantCorp’s legions of pigs and other assorted animals try to bring your adventure to an end. Even some of the run of the mill enemies are more than capable of ruining your entire day, and so caution is always advised before engaging in fisticuffs.
Thankfully there aren’t many niggles with this game. One slight annoyance though is the need to manually save, by finding a toilet in the level. Now, this is probably just because I’ve been made soft by autosaves, but if you find your way to a boss without finding a toilet, which is possible, getting beaten means practically going back to the start of the level. Also, if you quit out before saving, the progress is only saved up till the last potty break. I found this out the hard way, after beating the first boss and clearing half the second level: when I restarted the game it put me back to before the boss fight, and many bad words were said.
Unfortunately one further annoyance is that you can get stuck in a damage loop, which is never good. There are certain pigs that bounce around on exercise balls, and are a pain to take out as they bounce erratically. In the second boss fight, I managed to get stuck between two of these pigs, with a platform above me and couldn’t break out, dying in the process. This felt somewhat unfair to be honest, but I just had to suck it up and crack on.
While I’m being critical though, the timings of some of the purchasable moves are a little strange, requiring a held button rather than a press. In the middle of a boss fight all pretence at combos tends to go out the window, instead seeing you flail around like a toddler mid-tantrum. The special moves could certainly be simpler to access.
All in all though and SuperEpic: The Entertainment Wars on Xbox One is a good experience. The Metroidvania hooks of exploration and new abilities, leading to further exploration, are all present and correct, and most importantly it’s great fun to play. It’s full of nice touches and humour, moving along at a cracking pace, and minor annoyances aside is a game I can recommend. So saddle up and go save the world of video games!