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SUPERHOT's perfection

Let's see how this game communicate with players.


BANG. BANG. BANG. On-screen texts appear as orders, some little contextual information of the scenarios we pass through, but the mission is always the same: go deeper into the virtual system of SUPERHOT and kill mysterious anthropomorphic figures. The game is all there. In addition to the magnificent gameplay mechanics that hold the game up (time stops if we don't move), perhaps the most innovative I've seen in an FPS in the last 10 years, this game it hides even more. SUPERHOT is a lethal and focused storytelling bullet. We will not discuss about gameplay, but all the ways the game uses to communicate with the player.

1 - Rythm

Rhythm matters. While titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild don't offer too many moments where the action is truly urgent or a quick succession of actions is required to progress the storyline - because the catastrophe has already happened and BOTW is an adventure of slow restoration of good rather than an epic war against evil -, SUPERHOT happens entirely in a present time. It asks to be experienced with the superhuman speed of a machine, or of a guinea pig subjected to stressful, numerous and decontextualized tests. Players have no time to understand the rules of the game: this is a narrative design choice.

2 - Interface

SUPERHOT's interface, including its main menu, is SUPERHOT itself. It's the mysterious program that we are invited to dive in, the "video game" that must not be opened. This is not just a "style" choice, but a great way to tell ("to show" is better) us one thing: the protagonist of the game (the player who's invited to try the game by his friend) and the player who plays the SUPERHOT are probably the same person. This is also why SUPERHOT's interface is cryptic and not perfectly readable: understanding each feature would go against our character, who discovers it for the first time. A nice way to break the 4th wall.

3 - Chat

The NPC (non-player character) that we find once the game is launched is, as we mentioned, a friend of ours who invites us to install the program. We do not know who he really is and how he looks like, the only way to communicate with him is within the chatbox; to be specific, it's the only way to communicate with someone in general. And once the SUPERHOT system gains the upper hand, we won't even be able to do it freely anymore. This friend doesn't seem very useful to the narration, but it has some essential function: he's the one who "calls the hero" to let the adventure begin and, above all, he is the one who convinces us of the innocence of the SUPERHOT video game. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a powerful plot twist, the twist in which the game turns out to be a control system of the player's mind and actions.


4 - On-screen text

Some give an ironic information about the scenario we are going to go through. Others are orders, as we said. They are quiete peculiar; these texts seem extradiegetic, as they give explanatory information about the player's avatar, but they actually are not: it's the self-aware program, that shows itself to the player. Can the game itself be considered an NPC who offers us the challenge? From a dramatic point of view, its texts have a double function: they serve to illustrate the world to the player, therefore to give information, and to constantly remind him that he is never alone. And this is conflict.

5 - Color

All the virtual scenery is white. It doesn't distract us and helps to get to the point immediately: what is red is the enemy, the rest is useless. This game seems to incarnate an essay on the Gestalt Rules! This extreme minimalism serves to alienate the player (and yes, it's cheaper for the software house too). Faithfully reproducing a virtual world is not forbidden, but what if the game were not a simulation of reality ... but just a shooting range where we are tested? Color helps the legibility of the scene and even more helps keep us alert. And, of course, it's another way to communicate that we are in a dangerous world, where the enemy's elimination is the only thing that matters.

SUPERHOT is a little gem, if you ask me. Perhaps even a masterpiece, at least among small productions. Have you noticed anything else in this cryptic and delusional digital dream?

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