How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Supraland is a first-person puzzle game first, that happens to be enhanced by Metroidvania level design and exploration.
Primary Challenge: Spatial-Reasoning Puzzles
Time to beat: ~15 hours
Review Info: The Steam Review Code for this game was provided by the Developer through Curator Connect
Buy Supraland if you like…
- First Person Puzzle games (like Portal)
- Childhood Nostalgia
- Completionist Exploration
- Abstract thinking
- Monty Python style humor
▼ Review continues below ▼
It was over a year ago that I had the privilege of previewing Supraland when it first hit Early Access. From the first half hour, I was hung up on some weird moon logic; I was questioning things like why collecting barrels were important for unlocking upgrades. After completing the three hours or so of content that was available back then though, I was pleased by how smart the puzzles were. Even at that time controlling the character was exhilarating, and the whole year I kept wanting to dive back into its world in spite of my meticulously planned schedule. But, the wait has paid off, and I am happy to report that Supraland is an absolutely incredible accomplishment; it’s satisfying, and thus addictive, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to play it.
Of course I say that praise with the assumption that you’re in the niche that Supraland caters to, which considering this is “The Metroidvaniai Review”, I feel like I need to talk to that a bit. Supraland is a Metroidvania in much the same way as La-Mulana is a Metroidvania. All of the genre’s tropes are there; the guided non-linearity, the ability gating, and even the combat. But in a typical playthrough, a majority of your time isn’t going to be spent wandering halls and slaying monsters like you would in a Metroid or Castlevania title. Instead you’re probably going to be spending hours scratching your head and mulling over clues as you try to figure out what it takes to progress into the next area. Because of this I’d describe Supraland as a first person puzzle game FIRST, which happens to ingeniously implement its Metroidvania design to take that genre to the next level.
Where the comparisons to La-Mulana diverges is the nature of the puzzles. Instead of Indiana Jones style riddle solving, Supraland is more about spatial reasoning. Portal is brought up often on the store page with good reason. If you’ve played that game you may remember that the game eases you into the Portal gun, first by having you solve puzzles with no gun, then with only one side of the portal, and eventually you gain control of both portals. In a sense, there’s already “Ability Gating” already built into Portal’s formula, and Supraland takes full advantage of that. In the Metroidvania fashion, each new tool you find will conjure up in your mind areas you may remember that couldn’t reach before, that you might be able reach now with your new power. But those tools are also used in every clever way imaginable as crucial elements in physics puzzles.
The control for each tool is surprisingly tight, but not so tight that it seems rigid. 90% of the time when I reached an area while doing optional exploration, it felt like I was cheating somehow, but then I would find a chest full of gold indicating that yes, it was intended that I could get up there. There is so much satisfaction in finding all of the game’s nooks and crannies because of this. While the main quest feels a little less like cheating since the game guides you through it very nicely, the constant moments of epiphany that come from figuring out the puzzles on your own is by no means less satisfying.
The puzzles do get very difficult later on, but there are a lot of safety nets to prevent too much frustration. Early in the game everything is tutorialized heavily. The aforementioned barrel fetch quest teaches you about finding coins and what they’re good for. Then, the coins are used in a Mario-like fashion to guide you towards secrets, intuitively teaching you what to look out for. When you get the ability to create purple blocks, the best place to use them is telegraphed by purple paint. Gradually after conditioning you on what to do, the training wheels are taken off, with almost all of these little helps disappearing completely by the late game. Sometimes you’ll reach a dead end with a puzzle room, and there’s a helpful little man in a top hat who will tell you whether you have all the tools necessary to solve the puzzle. If you do, he’ll encourage you to do your best, otherwise he’ll tell you not to waste your time. It’s one of the friendliest overall designs I’ve seen in a more difficult game – very indicative of a developer who listens carefully to his player base.
If I were to try and pinpoint any weaknesses Supraland has, I’d have to start with the combat. With your sword, it’s a matter of button mashing your enemy’s skull in. Later, you get a gun with large bullets that turn the screen into a Charlie foxtrot as you spray and pray; it’s not particularly deep. Combat is never boring, but that’s primarily because there isn’t a lot of it. Even though there are enemy spawners everywhere, they really only spawn after you solve a new puzzle. This basically allows you to explore to your heart’s content without too much hassle. In fact, I would argue that fast and frenetic mindless combat is exactly what the game needs so your brain can let off some steam after figuring out a hard physics conundrum. Plus, the combat serves as a fine place to use the rewards you find throughout the world, showing off how powerful you’ve become. In this way, the simplistic combat works in Supraland’s favor.
The story is also simplistic, but it’s exactly what a video game needs. You just need enough of a hook to keep the player wanting to know what happens next, and Supraland does that. All of the game’s drama plays out with child-like playfulness, with a dash of Monty Python-style humor thrown in. It’s not going to blow your mind with any sort of philosophical or emotional climax, but it might make you chuckle. Overall, the theming is a huge strength to the game. At many points in the game’s world you can look up to see a child looking down on you, as if you’re seeing him from the perspective of being a toy in the sandbox the game takes place in. It invokes a nostalgia that I think many players will relate to, and contributes to that welcoming feeling that the gameplay mechanics themselves reinforce.
It goes without saying that not everyone will fall in love with every aspect of Supraland, especially if you’re looking for a more “pure” Metroidvania game. But Supraland is built on some dang good game design. It might not have the same polish as a Triple-A game made by a team of hundreds, but it has everything else it needs to stand with the best of games. For a game to get a perfect score from me, it has to set a standard that other games should aspire to. Supraland sets a standard for how First Person puzzle games can be deepened with Metroidvania elements. It sets a standard for how Early Access should be handled. And, it holds to a standard of pacing and player respect that in my mind puts it in the exclusive club of “the greatest games” all on its own. Supraland 2 may come along and shatter all of these expectations – I hope it does – but for now Supraland is just the best of its kind, and if you enjoy first person puzzle games, play it now.
Combat is simplistic, but it's also not the main focus. The frenetic button mashing is nicely juxtaposed against the head scratching puzzles
Some of the challenge comes from being first person, but controls are great and let the player show off their skill
There are secrets hidden in places that you don't think you're supposed to be able to get to, making all exploration rewarding
Top notch puzzle design will have you feeling like a genius at every turn, or facepalming when it finally dawns on you what the solution is
It's everything a Video Game story needs to be - it drives the player forward to see what happens next, but it's not exactly an opera
The Unreal 4 engine graphics look excellent, with only a few minor graphical glitches here and there
The music is pretty standard, with a few stand-outs (like the ending theme)
The game is packed full of content, but there isn't a whole lot of reason to repeat it except to speedrun (Or just because it's good enough that you'd want to.)
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