Game reviews: Superhot and Fortified - cool and fun
Superhot is the coolest concept of the year so far, while Fortified is a fun tower defence game with a cold war, alien invasion feel
One of the coolest things about modern video games is that no idea is too small or too weird to make into an indie release. The existential journey of a wartime immigration officer? Yup, it’s been done (Papers, Please). A demonic game-within-a-game where you must escape the clutches of a crappy retro-adventure? You got it (Pony Island). A hallucinogenic dream world where you have to deliver an envelope to the sun, but you’re also the sun? Seriously, how did they even think of that one? (Tearaway).
And even though we’re just a couple of months in, Superhot’s already making a strong claim for the weirdest, coolest concept of the year. On the surface, the game looks like your standard, everyday first-person shooter, where the only real goal is to kill every bad guy on-screen. But it’s in the almost philosophical approach to the concept of time that it slowly segues into its own little puzzle genre.
The idea is simple: when you move, the game moves. Any cease in progress, and it all comes to a standstill. That means bullets, positioning, the whole nine yards is based on the simple notion of timing. But what on paper sounds like a strange, virtual version of musical statues, turns out to be a highly efficient, incredibly fluid and intriguingly complex journey into the intricacies of time-trickery – kind of like The Matrix’s bullet-time, but with a more minimalistic slant.
Visuals here are kept to a bare minimum, looking more like the basic framework of an eventually over-realised, hyperrealistic shooter – but there’s an eccentric charm in its simplicity, and combined with the limited five-hour running time and beautifully lean concept, creates a strong case for less-is-more. Make no mistake though: as the levels progress and the game’s difficulty amps up, Superhot quickly turns into a conundrum-filled adventure where equal measures of quick thinking, multitasking and clever play combine to create a swarm of possible solutions.
But unlike say, the genre-warping Portal series, Superhot (available for Xbox One, Windows, Linux and OS) sticks to its guns throughout, never attempting to infuse any kind of new mechanics. Some might see that as a lack of innovation, others as the perfection of a certain formula. Only time will really tell. For now, though, Superhot is exactly what it says on the tin: an inventively scorching game that’ll no doubt feel a little lukewarm as the genre catches up.
There was a brief period in the 1950s when lack of information, strange conspiracies and a general feeling of well-being combined to create one glorious subgenre that mixed the cold war, nuclear paranoia and alien invasions. You know the one, where some Martian invasion threatened the livelihood of the human race, and only a few brave American souls armed with preposterous weapons could save it.
Fortified! (for Windows and Xbox One) takes that concept and runs with it. The game is a tongue-in-cheek, knowing homage to hammy movies and outlandish scenarios that made up the era. A mash-up of tower defence and third-person shooter genres, the game never strays far from the standard protect-and-destroy dynamics. Martians are attacking, you and your burly team of fighters must save a bunch of rocket bases from possible destruction, using ray guns, jet packs and other retro-futuristic warfare.
It’s a simple and fairly straightforward game, and while it initially seems like there are a multitude of options behind its campaign, after the first few levels, it slowly begins to dawn on you that the only thing that really changes in Fortified! is the number of aliens on-screen and how many bases must be protected. No, where the game stakes its claim is purely on the surface level.
A whole lot of love has gone into Fortified!’s audiovisual concept, and the era-precise comic-book style and blatant Americana vibes play a large part in the game’s outrageous appeal. Sure, you could play dozens of other tower defence shooters, but where else can you battle it out in co-op mode against Red Menace stereotypes on clean-as-a-whistle Pleasantville streets?
Fortified doesn’t have much going for it on the gameplay front, but it’s in its details, in the movie marquee signs, oversized freeze rays and mad scientist clichés, that it makes itself worthy of at least a passing play-through alongside a buddy. Don’t forget to have a cold soda pop while you’re at it.