Taking place in a computer simulation where the world is carved from alabaster and your opponents made of orange glass, Superhot hinges on the gimmick that time only moves when you do. Remain still in one of its wickedly stylish combat arenas, and the world will hang in an almost-frozen state. Enemies stand like statues while bullets linger in the air, moving as if through treacle. Look around or press a button and the game will begin to speed up, projectiles and adversaries flying towards you in a flash.
It’s the world as viewed by John Wick. Everything is abstracted apart from the targets you need to eliminate and the projectiles coming to kill you. You’re able to spot and sidestep bullets with ease, and to plan your attacks with the precision and thought normally reserved for strategy games. Superhot’s combat plays up to this notion of planned improvisation. Objects such as bottles and bricks can be picked up and tossed at opponents; when an antagonist staggers and drop their weapons, you can catch them before they hit the ground and turn them on their previous owner.
Superhot is designed to help one action flow seamlessly into the next, to make your responses to its shifting combat puzzles seem deliberate and sleek. Mind Control Delete maximises the 2016 original’s thrilling yet meditative action, greatly expanding the number of weapons available with everything from katana swords and assault rifles to pencils and hypodermic syringes. You can swap bodies with an enemy and “recall” your katana to your hand (it will slice through anything it comes into contact with on the return journey).
Instead of offering a linear story, Mind Control Delete is structured like a virtual maze explored via connected computer “nodes”. Each node contains several randomly chosen combat arenas that you must complete in sequence, tooth-and-nail fights that take place in bars, discos, prisons. If you die, the levels are reshuffled and you begin again. Repetition is a central theme, one the game embraces in a way that feels smugly arch and without substance. The fragments of text that you pick up as you explore tease a greater mystery, but in this respect the game is more interested in seeming clever than being coherent. The emphasis on repetition also means Mind Control Delete skirts closely around tedium.
But while you’ll become overly familiar with the limited number of levels, the arrangement of enemies and power-ups is always different. No two fights feel the same. Like the brilliant Tetris Effect, Superhot deftly sidesteps monotony and instead becomes hypnotic, inducing the zen-like trance state of the archetypal action hero when deep in the throes of violence. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who you’re fighting or why. What matters is the fight itself, the spectacle and the flow. Superhot’s self-directed choreography emerges triumphant; stylish, dynamic and gripping.