It’s that time again! Time for another Game Mechanic of the Week!
What’s on the docket this week? Well…
… good question. What with one thing and another, this is the week of Transitions, when I’m working three jobs simultaneously, and haven’t had a lot of spare time for games and game-related activities. Indeed.
So, does that mean there’s no game mechanic this week? No, just that it’s a brief-ish digression on a brief-ish game. Well, a not even a game, a demo. It’s time for Superhot.
SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT.
This is a rule that doesn’t even get explained, but boy howdy is it a useful one. I’ll make up the terminology myself.
Right-click to ditch your gun.
Superhot exists in a fantastic space, and if you haven’t played it yet, do so right now. Seriously, even if you just take in the first level, you need to understand the style.
And boy, it’s all about style. It’s a first-person shooter; at the moment, an incredibly simple one, with little in terms of narrative besides the need to kill all the dudes trying to kill you and the last chapter which… well… is odd. But it exudes style, from the grey and red template to the core mechanism that makes the game function at all: time only moves when you do.
On the whole, it makes you a frightening berzerker, and it’s easy to come up with several options for what it’s actually simulating here… are you somehow supernatural, a thing literally unstuck in time? Is this an approximation of the thought-processes of the dangerously hypercompetent? Is this, as the last level indicates, indicative of some sort of crazy mind-control in action? Or is it just keen, a neat thing by virtue of being a neat thing without greater “story” attached to it?
(Me, I never accept the latter option, but what do I know?)
Regardless, you are an entity killing dudes, and though it’s too lo-fi to be brutal, it’s clear that you are a terrifying thing. Weaving between slow-motion bullets, reacting nigh-instantly to the sudden appearance of bad guys, and not stopping till everyone is dead. And ditching your gun.
Y’see, you pick up a gun, and it has six bullets, and once you fire them all, you’re out. Pick up a new one from where one of your victims dropped it. Or, if you’re getting low on ammo, just ditch your gun to grab a new one, or to go all melee on the mean men in sunglasses. Why do I love this? Because it sells me on the danger of the protagonist, whatever his (her, its) nature may be. You are unarmed and unprepared, logistically, for this battle. No weapon, no ammo, you take what you can get from the surroundings, and you don’t even have an option to reload. And then you proceed to unleash hell.
Obviously, Super Hot is not the first game to have its players take supplies from fallen opponents, but the lack of a starting weapon, the lack of ammo, and the frankly beautiful slow-motion arc of a disposed gun all combine to enhance the frenetic pace, which is a really interesting descriptor for a game which spends much of its time not moving. The ability to ditch a gun before it runs out of ammo is an implicit encouragement to take part in this dance as well… you’ll lose your gun automatically if you try to fire it when you’re out, but that means you click one more time than you need to. It’s a minor punishment, at best, but it can mean the difference between shooting a dude and getting shot, and when one hit is instant death, that can be important. Better, more effective a use of your resources (bullets and time) to keep flinging half-used guns, picking up fresh ones wherever they fall, and making sure that your litany of murders is capped off by plenty of littering.