Even from the first prototype of Superhot it was clear that the concept was a good one. Time moves only when you do. When that simple premise is wrapped around the stylings of a futuristic first-person shooter, it transforms the experience completely, turning something that's potentially unremarkable in so many ways, into an action-puzzler that looks and feels completely distinctive.
There's a lot to like about Superhot, and nearly all of it revolves around the central time-bending mechanic. As you move, so does the world around you, with time creeping forward at the pace you set. Edge delicately around the white environments and the bullets whistle past in slow-motion, but push on the analog stick with a bit more urgency, suddenly those bullets speed up, and more often than not one of them will have your name on it.
This is a game that creates a thousand bullet-time moments, and you are The One, dancing between deadly projectiles, grabbing and throwing items to slow down your opponents, turning their own weapons against them, and even taking over their bodies in order to outmanoeuvre them in the battlefield. At all times - despite the fact that you're also victim to one-hit-kills - you're made to feel supremely powerful.
There's a story of sorts that exists around the action-packed levels, but actually we weren't huge fans of this part of the game. It's very meta, taking elements of The Matrix and mashing them together with more than a few nods to Hotline Miami. The fourth-wall is practically non-existent here. The resulting narrative often feels like a distraction, and even if we can see what they were trying to do, we just wanted to skip past these sections and get to the next level.
In terms of longevity, the campaign itself, convoluted story beats included, lasts only a couple of hours. There'll no doubt be a couple of missions that hold up your progress, but even then it won't take you very long to see the credits roll. There are, however, additional modes that provide secondary distractions. The endless mode, which features plenty of unlocks, has you battling wave after wave of enemies until one of them sticks a bullet in your back. There's also a bunch of challenge modes that ask you to play existing missions differently, for example, the first challenge is to slice your way through your enemies with just a katana.
These additional modes are a welcome addition to the package, but it's the main missions that are the star of this particular show, and we had the most fun when we were working out how to get past them. There are some great moments in there, for example, one of our favourites had us fighting our way out of a lift, punching opponents quickly to disarm them, before moving onto the next, dodging bullets where possible, and grabbing guns as they were sent spinning up into the air, then using them to finish the fight.
Pulling off a daring sequence is made all the more satisfying when afterwards you can watch the replay, with the bloodbath (actually, there's no blood) playing out in real-time, your seemingly psychic understanding of the fight leading to impressively succinct digital murder. It's just a shame that, in the campaign at least, you're made to watch the replays while the words "SUPER HOT" flash on the screen.
It looks great too, a fine example that sometimes less can be so much more. The visuals are simple; backgrounds are white, throwable objects are black, as are guns, and your enemies are red. You can roughly work out where your opponents are coming from because spawn points glow red. Perhaps most impressive is the way they shatter upon impact, further removing the violence from the realm of realism, cementing Superhot's credentials as an action-fuelled puzzle game. The simple, yet purposeful design extends to little touches, like the slight bloom of the cross-hair that lets you know when it's time to fire again.
If you can look past the slightly underwhelming narrative layer (and we suggest that you do), you're left with an intense puzzle-shooter hybrid that encourages flair and audacity. It's at its best when you're discovering things for the first time, so that first play-through is when Superhot shines brightest. Having said that, we like the additional modes that have been included, and they elongate the experience considerably, even if repeating old missions in new ways and endlessly taking down waves of shattering opponents doesn't have the same appeal as taking that first pass at the campaign. A couple of minor issues holds this back from being an indie classic, but this is still a hugely enjoyable and immensely satisfying spin on the shooter genre.