Review: Supraland – A Playful Platformer With Squandered Potential
Sometimes a game’s overambition can be to its detriment, and Supraland is a prime example of this. The game is a disappointing tale of clear purpose and great ideas that, unfortunately, does not create an enjoyable product. While it is impressive that the game was created by only two developers, Supraland feels closer to a tech demo than a retail release, with its unintuitive puzzles, difficult controls, and numerous technical issues.
One of the most glaring issues Supraland faces is that it struggles with what kind of story it wants to tell. The game takes place in a child’s sandbox with two opposing factions: the red kingdom and blue kingdom. After the blue people attack the red people’s sewage pipe underground, the Red King – with the help of the player – sets off to have a discussion with the Blue King about the attack.
While the story of a kihttps://www.nintendolife.com/#d playing with his toys is simple and lighthearted, the dialogue is incredibly serious and has both political and religious undertones. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the contrast between the overarching narrative about the world does not mesh well with the social commentary spoken by some of the NPCs. For example, one NPC talks about invisible walls around the sandbox – a cute reference to game design – while another discusses the existence of a god controlling their actions. The political and social commentary comes off as incredibly jarring when the game is about a child’s sandbox, ultimately leading to Supraland facing an identity crisis on what type of game it wants to be.
In terms of presentation, Supraland struggles to be pleasing to the eyes. The world design is crafted with rocks, sand, and objects a kid would use to create an imaginary world. Pencils, erasers, and building blocks provide platforms to traverse, with small crystals lighting the way for the player. Unfortunately, the theming falls short when the world begins to feel unnatural.
Take, for example, the prominence of lit candles and cacti as an element of the world. While a child using erasers in a sandbox makes sense, a child using lit candles does not. It would have been great to see the game adopt a Yoshi’s Woolly World approach, with everything made out of objects a kid would use, but unfortunately, this design decision doesn’t allow the immersion that something like Yoshi gives the player. This also is not helped by the abundance of graphical problems, including low-resolution textures and extreme pop-in on many objects.
One of Supraland’s clearest inspirations can be found in the gameplay style. Much like Portal, the game takes place in the first person with a focus on solving puzzles to move to the next area. Unlike Portal, Supraland aims to shake up the formula by having a greater focus on exploration, platforming, and combat. While there is a clear ambition to innovate with these gameplay changes, each one feels clunky and unnatural for this style of game. Exploring the world of Supraland is mostly restricted to small, square areas connected by locked doors. Outside of collecting coins (which shamelessly play the Mario coin sound effect when picked up), there is no incentive to explore, especially thanks to the lack of a map. Due to the world being made of mostly rocks and sands, many areas feel the same, making the world confusing to navigate.
Like the world design, puzzles are extremely confusing and do not make much sense. Take, for example, a puzzle in the early hours of the game involving scanning keycards. The game wants the player to return to the previous area with the card and use a colour changer to switch the colour from white to red. This would not be an issue if the game gave some indication that that was the solution, but instead, it feels like people will only find it by accident. This extends to most of the puzzles in Supraland, as there is no hint system to aid the player when they are stuck. As a result, Supraland’s puzzles are more frustrating than rewarding.
The most aggravating part of Supraland has to be the controls. As previously mentioned, the game aims to be a first-person platformer; however, the controls of Supraland are extremely rough. There is little weight to jumps, movement is slippery and there’s an unexplainable momentum system at play which makes even basic navigation tricky. This makes platforming across tight gaps nearly impossible, as sometimes the player will miss the platform due to a sudden burst in momentum.
A run button could have easily negated this issue and helped the player have more control over their movements. Similarly, adding gyro aiming would have made picking up objects and observing the world much more manageable, as the aiming reticle is far too sensitive to pick up objects with pinpoint accuracy. It is also worth noting that movement can be extremely glitchy; sometimes you’re able to climb a vertical wall with ease, while other times you struggle to jump on a small stack of boxes. It’s incredibly frustrating.
While there is clear potential in Supraland, the game suffers from an identity crisis. The whimsical setting and level design show potential, but the control problems, lack of direction in puzzles and odd narrative undertones make this a disappointing package. Look elsewhere for a more enjoyable game that will make one think outside of the (sand)box.
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