The War Against Monetisation
SuperEpic: The Entertainment War may not be the best Metroidvania-style game, but it is the first I’ve played that manages to turn the topic of microtransactions into a positive gameplay mechanic. When it comes down to it, SuperEpic is a satirical, surprisingly balanced 16-bit platformer that juggles its simplistic premise with enough visual flair and charm to make it well worth the cost to play. While the actual gameplay loop remains unchanged through much of the play-time, the changing aesthetic and added enemy variety is a welcome sign and a clear conscious effort to inject the game with some excitement to prevent it stagnating.
Tying everything together is a humorous and topical story revolving around the evil RegnantCorp. Attempting to control the world through monetized free-to-play games, you control a spunky raccoon hell bent on preventing the world from succumbing to corporate greed and predatory microtransaction hell. As you progress through the game, you work your way up through the ranks of RegnantCorp before tackling the end-boss. A lot of these encounters are memorable too, and all the characters have a good injection of personality during the on-screen text cut-scenes. There are a couple of spelling errors through a few of these exchanges but a lot of that is easy to look past given how well the game plays.
The main meat of the game comes from the gameplay itself which sees you control this aforementioned raccoon while riding atop a llama, traversing levels with a side-scrolling, 16-bit view. You smash through hordes of enemies, solve simple environmental or logical puzzles, as well as collect items to aide you on your quest. A handy map in the top right of the screen shows your progress, as each inter-connected room unlocks more of the maze. This certainly helps during some of the more intricate and complicated levels late on that see you backtrack and unlock new areas. Each of these segments end with you tackling a boss that begins simply enough before progressing to heart-pounding, adrenaline soaked encounters with some pretty tough foes late on.
Thankfully the controls are simple to understand and keep things engaging. X is your jump button (with double jump unlocked pretty early on), square, circle and triangle all serve as variants of combat including upper-cuts and simple slashes, while pressing and holding the right analog stick brings up a special items menu that allows you to place bombs, drink energy drinks and more. All of this combines with dashes, special moves and the ability to chain attacks together in combos, which add to that addictive notion of plunging through “one-more” room after reaching the save points (which happen to be toilets).
These save points however, are one of the big gripes I have with the game. The placement of these rooms can be a real test of patience as well as trial and error and pot luck, with the game encouraging exploration but doubling up as a gamble thanks to the nature of combat and enemy variety. If you die, you may well lose quite a bit of progress and after a tough boss that can be particularly problematic. This is alleviated somewhat by a one-time gamble to pay off half your collected coins for another shot but beyond that there isn’t much avoiding this if you do end up dying again.
One time I defeated a really tough boss, breathed a sigh of relief and as I began the next area, died pretty quickly. Unfortunately as I hadn’t found or unlocked a save point here it pushed me back to the previous save… which was before the boss and consequently I had to redo this segment all over again. This might sound nitpicky but given the unskippable dialogue and ensuing rooms up until that point full of enemies, these moments felt like more of a chore to endure than they should.
The audio and visual design of the game is pretty impressive and enough to look past some of these issues. Colours pop nicely off the screen, the pixel art is very well drawn, with some good character and shading work done, along with a staggering variety of enemies – all of which animated in different and interesting ways. Late on in the game, understanding what moves do and don’t work with each variant was one of my highlights and every new area brings with it a bigger challenge to overcome. With things reaching almost overwhelming levels of difficulty toward the end of the game, the ability to hop in an elevator back down to the early levels works surprisingly well to show off how far you’ve come as you upgrade weapons and skills to aide you in your quest.
Defeating enemies brings with it its own set of rewards here, as you’re awarded coins for successful kills. These, in turn, can be used to buy new weapons, upgrades, health kits and more, with a second currency used to purchase special moves; the latter of which a direct dig toward free to play models using premium currency. Ultimately it’s this charm and cheeky humour that shines brightest and during some of the more difficult sections, this satire is enough to keep you going through to the finale.
It may not be the best game in its field but SuperEpic certainly holds its own on the battlefield, delivering a surprisingly robust and tightly refined Indie with enough charm and cheeky humour to keep you coming back for more. This is an indie game that knows exactly who it’s marketing its game at and isn’t afraid to go all-in with its ideas. SuperEpic is a lot of fun and with no microtransactions, battle passes, annual subscriptions or other recurring spending in sight, this is one game well worth checking out.
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