Review – SuperMash (PS4)

You may have read some of my other indie game reviews and you’ve probably noticed that I usually describe some of the more “innovative” titles as “one genre mashed with elements from another genre”. The guys at Digital Continue had an even more forward-thinking idea. Instead of creating a game that mashes two genres into one, they have decided to create a game that creates theses mashes over and over again, effectively creating a random game generator inside a game. A crazy idea for sure. A great idea as well. That’s how SuperMash came to be.

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I’ve seen this guy before. He reminds me of that green elf, I think his name was Zelda.

In SuperMash‘s world, a group of young adults finds an old console in a garage sale. It features a special accessory that allows them to place two cartridges at once, creating a brand new mishmash of a game as a result. A story unfolds, with small quests and cutscenes that you won’t really care about or remember after a few minutes. What really matters is that you have a machine that can create near-infinite types of games and you can play them as much as you want. Well, as much as the timer lets you, that is.

SuperMash‘s creation process is very simple. You have an assortment of cartridges named after a bunch of popular genres. You need to pick two of them, then decide the length of the game, its difficulty setting, and you can also tweak some of its features if you have specialized cards. These cards allow you to change your protagonist, your main weapon, and the environment you will play in. It even lets you input a cheat to help you out, such as infinite lives or regenerating health.

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This randomly generated shoot ’em up features better art design than some actual professionally made shooters I’ve played.

The genres included in here are very straightforward. They act more as clones of famous gaming franchises rather than a standard template. Action-Adventure is basically Zelda, complete with a very convincing 8-bit Link ripoff as one of your playable characters. Stealth is old-school Metal Gear. Platforming is a standard 2D Mario clone, complete with item blocks and being able to kill enemies by jumping on them. JRPG features the art style, menus, and battle system from Final Fantasy. Shoot ’em Up emulates Capcom’s 1942. Finally, Metrovania (I’m not writing a typo, that’s how it’s spelled in the game) isn’t exactly a standard metroidvania, but more of a clone of how the first few Castlevania games used to play; 2D platformers with screen transitions, slower movement, and weapon-based combat.

When you select the first game, that will be the core basis of the gameplay. Putting a platformer in the first slot and a stealth cartridge in the second slot will result in a 2D Mario clone with Metal Gear-inspired characters and environments, for instance. That can be further modified with the developer cards, which are one-time consumables earned whenever you beat a game. They are all short and comprised of one single objective, such as taking down fifty enemies in a bullet hell level. It’s the same principle you’ll find in WarioWare, with the difference that the games last for five minutes and not five seconds.

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Who needs Kojima?

The core loop lies in creating mishmashes in order to acquire more cards that will allow you to further customize your creations. You can even share them online if you’re really proud of what you have created. You don’t have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to the game’s graphics and sound, though. They are all presets. The graphics are comprised of the closest those games can look like their source material without receiving a cease and desist. Likewise, the soundtrack is comprised of decent, but completely unremarkable background noise.

The games themselves control fairly well, but the overall gameplay is a bit flawed. Everything works as it should according to the limitations of the genres you’ve chosen, but there are problems here and there. Issues such as the over-reliance of leaps of faith in 2D platformers, the lack of proper diagonal movement in top-down games, and a slight, but noticeable input lag in some games. It’s even more noticeable when you end up activating a random perk, as the game stutters for a second.

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This is not Donut Ghost House.

All in all, SuperMash succeeds because, even though it might have some flaws in its technical department, it’s still a fantastic idea that leaves a lot of room for experimentation and replayability. I have already played more than fifty mishmashes and I feel I have only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. It’s an incredible concept that has managed to pay off, but there’s still a lot that can be improved. That makes me excited for what Digital Continue has planned for the future, if they ever decide to make a sequel.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Each “genre” included in here basically emulates the graphical style of a famous 8 or 16-bit game with honors. It looks great when you mash visual assets together with completely unrelated cartridges.

Gameplay: 7.5

The games included in here emulate their “real life” counterparts to a fairly respectable degree, even though there are instances of input lag that really bring the experience down.

Sound: 6.5

Even though there are tons of different songs to accommodate all visual styles and genres included in SuperMash, they don’t do much more other than being passable background noise.

Fun Factor: 9.0

They are a bunch of simple minigames, but the mashing possibilities, alongside the cards that let you customize them to your liking, are endless. It’s a fantastic idea that can easily be improved upon with a sequel.

Final Verdict: 8.0

SuperMash is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of SuperMash was provided by the publisher.