SuperEpic: The Entertainment War certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Within minutes, Undercoders distain for more modern practices such as microtransactions, lootboxes and cheap, money grabbing mobile titles is made abundantly clear. Unlike other attempts to satirise these though, SuperEpic hits the balance between parody and utilising some of the things it is rallying against.
That’s not to say say there are any hidden tactics in here though. The premise of the story is as such; in the future a mega corporation known as RegnantCorp specialise in creating cheap clones of popular games designed to hook people in and empty their wallets. A small band of resistance players – including our heroes TanTan and his Lama – are tasked with infiltrating the HQ of RegnantCorp and taking them down. Along the way we meet with various other members of a somewhat shadowy organisation who offer their services as vendors for items and upgrades. While we’re not really sure we can trust them, they do at least seem to be helping us along the way.
It’s these upgrades that form a large part of the backdrop for gameplay. SuperEpic is built from the MetroidVania mold, with areas inaccessible until a certain power or item has been acquired. The map itself is laid out as an ever unfurling grid, each room entered unlocking another piece of the puzzle. Rooms with possible avenues of exploration are clearly noted on the map with a little marker indicating an adjacent area, which is handy, as you’re likely to spend a bit of time – especially later on – combing areas for the way forward. Shops, save points and more are indicated on the map also, though a a lack of a key makes early exploration trickier as I struggled to remember what exactly meant what. I was also not a massive fan of the white on red colour scheme; I found it quite garish to look at – and hard to read – for any length of time, though that’s more down to personal taste. In game the visuals are much nicer. There’s some lovely pixel art design, with large characters that have expressive animation. Each area is distinct in appearance as well as looking great too.
The gameplay manages to match the visuals perfectly, with fast, responsive controls and a fun loop of attacking. X,Y and B offer up different attacks that break through various defences, and stringing them together in a combo is incredibly satisfying. The loop of up swing and air slashing before a final, mighty down swing always brought a smile to my face. Enemies offer up a decent challenge, though be wary of walking into an area you’re not sufficiently levelled for. Later perks can be bought to enable stronger hits, better defence or the like. There are also special moves found across the adventure, allowing TanTan to, for example, quickly zip back and forth in attack, throw Molotov’s or dive kick enemies. Using these consumes energy and/rage, though these are easily refilled by simply getting stuck in to the fight. Boss battles require a slight change up in tactics, though you will just be looking for an opening to smack them about the chops. These take the form of various levels of senior staff at RegnantCorp, from the Game Design Thief to the Slave Team Builder. Yet more shade is levelled at these kind of real life companies – all the characters in game are animals, but the higher ups are all various forms of pigs. Outside of combat there are the occasional environmental puzzles to solve, such as breaking a brick wall, but of more interest are the meta-game style inclusions.
Throughout the game there are chests hidden with helpful loot. Some simply require a bit of thoughtful platforming or returning via an alternate route later on. The best though are much more inventive. Nearby will be a QR Code on a wall. Scanning this with your real world phone will open up a web page with a short mobile title to be played. Completing the objective in this will grant you the keypad combination to disable the defences stopping you from reaching the chest. The first time I came across one I was absolutely gobsmacked. It’s a unique, thoughtful approach to game design that I for one have never seen done before.
What’s even more amazing is that these mobile games are actually fun – though they only take less than a minute to clear so perhaps that’s part of the charm. I don’t want to ruin the surprises of them but they tend to take the form of – fittingly for the story – cheap clones of popular mobile titles that you may find on your local neighbourhood app store. There are also bank points around the map that allow you to earn currency via a mobile clicker style game. Again, it’s a great way to help out with earning currency in game without resorting to actual money leeching tactics. Simply click on the icon to earn money – once you’ve enough you can unlock a worker to click for you. Leave the tab running in the background on your phone and it will just continue to amass coins for you. These can then be turned in for in game cash, though each denomination can only be purchased once.
Should you die, then you have the option of an instant restart for half of your money. While money is earned for every enemy you kill too, if you die after redeeming some cash cards it can be quite the kicker. The risk/reward dynamic at play is pitched brilliantly, even if I did lose my fair share of cash shortly before the nearest vendor… There are also plenty of extra optional objectives to complete, and hidden areas to explore. While these add extra depth to a play through, they are hard to keep track of because the game, well, doesn’t. One example is when a worker mistakes you for new QA testers. She asks you to bring her the 3 bug reports before you can gain access to a loot chest. It’s not explained that these reports will be found across the game as a whole, not simply in the current area. I happened across the last of the 3 by accident several areas later and had already forgotten where she was located. I never did turn it in. Even if it didn’t reveal the location on the map until the objective had been collected it wouldn’t have made things so hard to keep on top of, There are many more of these throughout, and not one did I hand in due to not wanting to traipse the map in search of one random room. A shame, though not a deal breaker as the core progression manages to keep you topped up with items, money and new places to see so as to not feel like you’re missing out.
SuperEpic: The Entertainment War lays its feelings out for all to see on the current state of the big buck chasing corporate side of the game industry. That it does so with enough wit and entertainment factor is commendable; it would have been easy to fall on the wrong side of parody. The core gameplay is fun and engaging, the art is fantastic and – odd typo aside – the writing manages to get the message across in an entertaining way. Undercoders perhaps lent a little too heavily on the MetroidVania aspects with a hard to read map and even harder to keep track of side missions, but overall I had a blast with SuperEpic.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.