A lot of games that come out today have a source of inspiration. Classic examples like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Rocket League, Portal, and more are reference points for games. Often times, however, games based off of other games are only based off of one game. Supraland isn’t that game. Taking inspiration from Metroid, Portal, and Zelda, Supraland is a genre bash that mixes inspirations and genres into one (literal) sandbox. This is Supraland, and it’s red versus blue all over again.
Supraland takes place in a giant sandbox where a kid has created a world for little red and blue people. You are the prince of the reds as they try to fight the blues after they stole your water. To get to your destination, you are going to need to hack, slash, puzzle solve, and explore your surroundings with the proper tools.
The story isn’t anything to write home about. I knew that the story was going to end with the reds and blues putting aside their differences and whatnot, but man would it have been cool if the reds just stormed the blues and completely changed the ending. Story aside, there isn’t a lot of story to talk about. Instead, Supraland’s story elements can be seen through pop culture references and pieces of humor here-and-there. The pop culture references include characters, both living and dead, and represent characters from other games, movies, and shows. You can find He-Man (named Him-Guy in the game) on top of a rock and you can take his hair as a souvenir. On top of that, the dialogue from the various characters around the map is often clever, acknowledging that the tools you need are MacGuffins and commenting on their existence as a toy in a sandbox with invisible walls. The story isn’t anything memorable, but the writing did get a few chuckles out of me.
Supraland is a game that embodies multiple games into a giant melting pot of mechanics. While this is known going in, the question I had of the game while I was playing was how refined are the different aspects of gameplay, and how well do they all work together. Fortunately, I found all of these different inspirations and mechanics to work together well, offering a unique and compact experience.
The gameplay of this game can be boiled down to three pieces: puzzles, exploration, and combat. All three of these start with the tools you pick up along the way. Throughout the game, you find various tools that help with the journey, and each tool has multiple uses. You have a sword that can be used to attack foes and destroy spawn points, a gun that can attack foes and shoot boxes, a giant purple block that can be used to push down buttons, a purple gun that can grapple onto wood and make bridges, a green gun that can lob a ball that you can teleport to, and a magnet belt that can make you levitate near metal. While all of these tools sound great and all, the beauty of these tools really begin to show when you start finding more clever uses for them, which is where the puzzles come into play.
Out of the three aspects of the game, the puzzles found throughout are the best part. Almost everything, including the final boss fight, revolves around completing physics-based puzzles. The best part of the puzzle aspect to the game are the tools that you can use. While each tool has its base uses, the puzzles show just how clever this game is by giving each of the tools at your disposal more uses than ever. You think the cube is only good for a little extra height and the purple gun is only good for swinging? Try connecting a purple gun strand to the purple cube and making a bridge. The red gun is only good for shooting dudes? Try shooting through a purple strand for a purple projectile. The different uses for tools I just listed scratch the surface of how deep the puzzle mechanics go, which also includes water, electricity, fire, paint, portals, and more. Puzzles even save the final boss from being a giant health bar, offering quite a challenge to solve. One last thing to say about the puzzles is the puzzle man, who spawns near a puzzle if you are stuck on it and either gives you a hint or says you don’t have all the necessary tools to complete the puzzle. I love that he is there to offer guidance, as for I can’t think of how many puzzles I would’ve wasted my time on if he didn’t show up and tell me that I can’t do them. I could spend the rest of this review talking about all of the cool puzzles found throughout, but I will stop here by saying Supraland has some of the smartest puzzles I have played in recent memory.
Solving puzzles open up new areas, which then unlocks new tools, which leads to the next part of this game: exploration. The level design takes inspiration from Metroid, with new pathways opening up based on the tools you get. Since there are so many different mechanics in this game, almost every single piece of this sandbox has some sort of meaning, and I love how well hidden most of it is. For example, there is this area that is blocked off by a giant wall and has metal pliers next to it. I originally thought the pliers were for decoration until I picked up the magnet belt, which then turned the decoration piece into an elevator. The more tools I unlocked, the more I began to appreciate this expertly crafted world. On top of that, the game never discouraged exploration by allowing the ability to climb on the sides of the mountains, showing just how well planned out the sandbox is.
The more the sandbox opened up, however, the more confusing it got. It became hard to memorize where each area was and how to get there from my location, which is where one of my biggest flaws comes into play: a lack of a map. The only map in the entire game is in your house, which for me meant travelling back to my house every time I needed to go somewhere but didn’t know how to get there. Even a static map that didn’t how my location would’ve been fine, but exploration was a little bit harder without a map.
The final piece of this puzzle, combat, is the smallest and weakest part of the game. While I don’t think it’s horrible, I found the combat to be bland and at times annoying. The worst part of the game is when there are a bunch of enemy spawn points around, but you can’t do anything about them so you have to do whatever it is you are doing in that area while dealing with a ton of enemies. Other than that, combat comes down to lining up the cross hair and either swinging a sword or shooting a gun. There are some unique combat abilities like shooting a bullet then shooting that bullet with the red gun’s alternate fire for an explosion, but I found just shooting or stabbing dudes to be much easier. Combat got in the way more than anything else, but at least it’s a smaller part of the game.
In conclusion, Supraland is a blend of inspirations and mechanics that offers a unique yet familiar experience. While a lack of a map and bad combat hinders the game a bit, the game’s incredible level design and puzzles more than makes up for it. While this title quietly came and went for many, I found a great experience worth having, and more than one instance of me sitting back and being amazed by its mechanics. Supraland is a fun time worth having, and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good puzzle game.