Supraland is an action-adventure game for the PS1 and PS2 kids – i.e. me, other postgrads, and those of you whose parents used to comb charity shops.
It’s a Metroidvania-style action-adventure where you play as a gummy red person in a literal sandbox, trying to figure out how to bring water back to the village and maybe stop those blue people from being jerks to you.
Supraland deliberately tries to pull at your nostalgia for older games; I personally thought of the Harry Potter games and Jak and Daxter, but I’ve seen other people mention games like Zelda and The Talos Principle, so it could be just playing off a general feeling rather than any specific game.
As well as Metroidvania level design, cues have been taken from Doom for the combat and Skyrim for the freedom. In most cases this would leave a game feeling unfocused, like a telescope full of water. Here, it doesn’t; the game is remarkably tightly-designed.
You might be thinking “are you sure it’s playing off nostalgia, and isn’t actually designed for children?” No. There are a lot of references to Minecraft, the Masters of the Universe cartoons, Donald Trump, Fallout, testicles, and actually playing outside; this is something very much for our age group.
Sometimes the music stops playing, leaving an uneasy atmosphere that is completely at odds with the rest of the game.
Let’s go back to the gameplay, which is my most important criterion for a game. Is it fun? Yes. Yes it is. The puzzles are well-designed and interesting, the platforming is challenging without it getting stupid, and the abilities you gain are useful in both combat and exploration instead of feeling totally lopsided for one or the other. Combat starts simple and uninteresting, but evolves over time to be a lot more exciting (if you can forgive occasional interruptions to puzzle-solving).
The level design is particularly interesting; we’ve all tried to jump over a wall in an action-adventure game, but rather than glitching out or throwing up invisible walls, Supraland rewards you for it. “Oh, you managed to clamber outside the puzzle section?” it seems to say. “The chest down there contains a weapon upgrade. Go nuts.”
I have bugbears; small ones, but they’re there. Sometimes you’re called upon to use an item in a way that has never been properly explained. I also prefer my Metroidvania games to unlock all the movement abilities by halfway so I can explore everything properly (Rise of the Tomb Raider did this really well).
In Supraland, however, I’ve managed to beat the main story and I know for a fact that I’m missing abilities because I still can’t melt steel beams (need more jet fuel). Sometimes the music stops playing, leaving an uneasy atmosphere that is completely at odds with the rest of the game.
Supraland deliberately tries to pull at your nostalgia for older games; I personally thought of the Harry Potter games and Jak and Daxter
Supraland also styles itself as a comedy game, but it’s very hit-and-miss. Although the jokes work in different languages (which is impressive in itself), many of them don’t provoke much more of a reaction than a dry “h-hm”. It’s not bad, and it’s nowhere near the level of “first-time stand-up delivers fifty abortion jokes”. It appears to try to make a serious point on politics and religion but with very little nuance to it.
So basically, Supraland is a really good puzzle game and a modern take on old mechanics. It is actually good, despite my negative demeanour. After all, Steam doesn’t give “overwhelmingly positive” to just anyone. And there is a free demo, so you could always just give that a stab.