Superhot must be one of the most mind bending video games of recent years. It's a game where time only moves when you do, so if you stand still you can see the bullets hanging in mid-air. What may look like a much stylised first person shooter becomes more of a puzzle game as you try and find the optimum position, avoiding bullets and taking down bright red bad guys.
It's a crazy concept and you would have to be a pretty crazy board game publisher to try and convert this into table top form. Step forward Board and Dice, a Polish publisher who seem to teeter on the edge of sanity every time I speak to them as they bring us SUPERHOT The Card Game.
What Board and Dice have sent to us is not the full game, but instead enough of the game to play the solo variation of Superhot The Card Game. A cover disk demo in cardboard form. It's enough to get our heads round the game but unfortunately not enough to test out the multiplayer mechanics.
Central to the game is a row of cards representing your environment, chock full of heavily armed bad guys, as well as power ups and environmental items such as statues and tables for cover. In order to survive you will have to use cards in your hand to neutralise some of these threats or collects the items, spending either Attack or Dodge to buy cards from this central row. Where this card game implements Superhot's time bending mechanics is that with each card you play from your hand, the central row advances that many spaces.
In the early game this concept is useful for running past heavily armed opponents or burning through the deck to find the cards you want. Later in the game, when bullets start to find their way into the obstacle line, the more cards you play the closer those bullets will be to you and ready to make a bloody mess all over the floor, a stylised bloody polygon mess.
Bullets are bad. They clog up your hand making you less efficient and if you ever have four bullet cards in your hand its game over. Whether it's Dominion's curses, Trains's Waste or Nightfall’s wounds, every deckbuilder player will be familiar with the concept of duff cards filling up your hand and generally making you less productive. Which is the big reveal; Superhot is a deck building game and may well be the most innovative deck builder I have played in years.
Superhot is all about managing your hand and managing the central threat level, while at the same time attempting to complete a series of often conflicting mission objectives. Unlike most classic deck builders Superhot feels more immediate. The way in which cards are cycled and the way cards you remove from the obstacle line move straight into your hand means you play the game to resolve the here and now rather than carefully tuning your deck. Which is also why I keep losing.
Superhot works in a ladder of mission goals, with the number of missions required upping each round, 1 then 2 then 3, and it’s often the case that the way in which you have altered the decks to complete the first mission will completely ruin your chances later down the line. Whereas Superhot feels like you should be playing for the immediate goal you actually have to balance that against potential long term goals, which lead me onto my only real criticism of Superhot.
Because missions are drawn completely at random, the first mission can sometimes take a long time to complete. Specifics examples are the mission where you need to cycle through the draw deck twice and one where you have to dodge two bullets in a single turn, which not only requires you to burn through the deck but also requires you to fill the draw deck with bullets, and that never ends well. This can mean that the early games feel like you are going through the motions; with no immediate threat and a long term goal it feels like you are playing the game for the sake of it with no real strategic decision making.
This problem does go away in later rounds as your manipulation of the decks often means that it is easier to complete objectives later in the game and also quicker for things to fall apart. It's just a shame that superhot doesn't apply the pressure enough early on. It's a minor gripe in an otherwise interesting and inventive game.
I’m rather impressed by Superhot the card game, it takes a first person shooter with an odd and mind bending puzzle aspect and makes a slick puzzle card game with an innovative take on the deck-building mechanic. While it is a shame that the demo version was a solo play game only, it's easy to see how it can be played as a cooperative but I have the feeling that will make the game even more mind bending.
This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.