[Review] Supraland – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Supra Games
  • Publisher: Humble Games
  • Release Date: 22/10/2020
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Code provided by Humble Games

Introducing Supraland Switch Review

My favourite puzzle game is Portal 2. My favourite game ever is a Zelda game. And while I have yet to play Metroid, there has not been a single metroidvania I didn’t enjoy. So when I picked this up, and saw it proclaim itself as a mix between Portal, Zelda, and Metroid, I was instantly sold. In the end then, is Supraland a supra experience? (I am aware this pun barely works.) Or does it fall short of matching those it takes inspiration from?

Honesty is the Best Policy


The developers admit on the official Steam page that the story is only there to give you an overarching goal before letting you run wild. And they aren’t kidding. Essentially, the game takes place in a young child’s imagination – there are two groups of people, red and blue. One day, the blue group sabotaged the red group’s water supply, and so for the vast majority of the game, your goal is to meet with the blue group’s king to ask why this has happened.

Trust me, I know how dull that sounds, but what propels this game’s narrative is not the end goal, it’s the genuinely funny writing. For instance, on one occasion, I got stuck on a puzzle for about 5 mins. I decided to take a step back and start the puzzle over again. Lo and behold, there’s an NPC I missed at the start, telling me that 90% of players get stuck on this puzzle because they forget a mechanic that you have used since the beginning of the game. I’m not ashamed to admit that 1) I was one of those people and 2) that cracked me up.

But it’s not all fourth wall breaks. Beyond them questioning the existence of invisible walls and their own creator, there’s tons of (extremely on the nose…) references to other media and surprisingly humorous NPC’s. Of course, not everything lands (I really wish I could talk about the final boss, because oh boy it is about as childish as you can get), but it’s certainly a nice upside to sticking with the gameplay.

Thinking With… Boxes


Far from the sometimes childish jokes, this game feels pretty difficult when it comes to gameplay! It’s first and foremost a puzzle game, with light metroidvania elements and some pretty terrible combat. Let’s get the bad out of the way first – because all of your gear (besides your sword) is focused on solving puzzles, you never once feel equipped for a fight. So in the few occasions where you have to deal with a boss, it’s a miserable experience having to painfully spam the shoot button with the occasional laser thrown in.

There are smaller enemies scattered around the overworld, and while they are always – without fail – a nuisance, the simply wonderful puzzles made me forget about them. Like a metroidvania, you start small. At the very beginning, all you have is a cube (well technically, you don’t even start with that). But as you get a gun, stomp boots, a hover belt, a magnetic beam thingy – and so much more that I would also do a terrible job of describing, the puzzles equally get more and more complex.

To be quite honest, unless you have the free time to bang your head against a wall, I would recommend checking out the developer’s official Steam thread where they have hints for the major puzzles. While looking up a guide would ruin the fun, having hints nudge you in the right direction is a Godsend. It doesn’t come close to trial and error, but you have to absolutely think outside the box for a lot of puzzles. And I loved it. That eureka moment when I thought of a solution never ceased to make me feel like a God amongst men.

Head-Scratching Goodness


And it’s not like the game has no hints at all – NPC’s often say helpful stuff, wires always show what activates what – the signs are all there. It’s just up to you to notice them! But puzzles are only half the fun in Supraland. If you’re not staring at some button with a dumbfounded look on your face as you wonder what to do, chances are, you’re exploring. And the exploration is just as good as the puzzles. It accomplishes this in a very simple way.

It’s not like moving around is particularly fun – in fact the extremely rare platforming sections in this game were honestly pretty appalling. No, the reason exploration is fun is simply because the developers basically thought of everything. You may remember how when Super Mario Odyssey came out, people were praising how in the most unexpected of places you’d find coins or a Moon. Well, this game has that in spades.

Very early on in my playthrough, I remember managing to find just a single edge along a rock I could run up, and I tried my hardest to climb up. Waiting to either go out of bounds or hit an invisible wall. Lo and behold, at the end of my journey up this rock, there was a chest. I think that was the first moment I truly started to appreciate this game. And it doesn’t stop there.

Seeing Red


Towards the end, the game gives you some pretty magnificent tools for exploration (which I shan’t ruin here!) and then forces you to go back to collect money and a couple of collectibles. Now, forced backtracking is almost never fun in my opinion, but going back to an area with all these wonderful upgrades was just as satisfying as you’d expect from something like a Metroidvania – there was so much more I could do that it transformed they way I approached previous areas.

And even after that trip, I still think I missed a ton of stuff! But, unlike the actual weather in the game, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. When it comes to the presentation, Supraland looks pretty jank, at least on Nintendo Switch. It’s an Unreal Engine 4 game, so like many intensive games on Switch, it went through quite the downgrade.

As a fun aside, for gameplay reasons there are some pixelated blocks throughout the game. When I saw one for the first time, I had honestly assumed it was just because the game didn’t finish streaming the textures in, as it blended in so well.. Fortunately, the framerate is pretty solid (at least, it is in TV mode). I cranked up the motion blur when I played, so while that might have made it harder to notice, I could only spot dips in the framerate in the (very crowded) opening area, and in the literal two cutscenes where you have no player control.

Feeling Blue


So Supraland isn’t exactly the best looking game by any stretch of the imagination. But I’d gladly take the hit to visual quality to keep the framerate at 30. The art style itself is very colourful and vibrant. And seeing the massive backyard surrounding the world (remember, this is a kid’s imagination!) was always a great moment. Now, it does blatantly rip off certain coins and pipes, but the gorgeous cartoony art style is hard to fault. The only thing I can fault the presentation for is the music.

It’s honestly not that memorable – it goes for more atmospheric pieces, but as a result it blends into the background. When it comes to the technical side of things, this is a remarkably polished game. In fact, when I was playing, there were times I was hoping that it had glitched out and a puzzle had broken – but alas, I just really sucked at those puzzles.

There were a couple of occasions where music didn’t loop, and one time the game crashed when I tried to load my save. Thankfully though, nothing really affected the core gameplay. And thank goodness for that, because if I haven’t made it clear enough, this was hard to put down. I always found myself saying “just one more puzzle…!” It’s good then that Supraland is jam-packed with content. Even after you finish it, nothing is stopping you from being on obsessive completionist and getting every last chest.

Conclusion



It pains me then that the combat is so miserable, as I may have given this our best rating if that wasn’t the case. But as it stands, Supraland is still a terrific game. The exploration in it appealed to my younger self who would spend hours just running around taking everything in, while the puzzles forced my current self to rack my brain for a solution, without ever feeling unfair.

Pros

  • Fun and challenging puzzles
  • A map that is a joy to explore
  • Pretty funny writing

Cons

  • Terrible combat
  • Very underwhelming presentation

Verdict
With ace exploration, challenging puzzles, and fun writing, Supraland is a joy to play, with only a few blemishes holding it back.

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