Outgunned, outmatched and against seemingly insurmountable odds, Superhot is a game that constantly had you back against the wall. On the surface, it’s a game with no plot and offers nothing to take away from the experience. It’s simply about killing the reds. Superhot is a game about seduction where, externally, the player can’t resist the pull of the core loop that stops and starts time itself with your every input. It’s also about succumbing to the program itself, all under the thin-veil illusion of control, its meta-plot rich with fourth-wall breaks and mind games. Mind Control Delete takes Superhot, bends and contorts it into a roguelike take on what made the original a memorable trip of mainframe machinations.
Mind Control Delete is a standalone expansion that expands on the elegant simplicity of Superhot. In the first game, riding time’s ebbs and flows to shatter the red guards of each level was the crux of the experience. Mind Control Delete leans into a clever, self-aware gamification of itself, giving the player two hearts and hacks, modifiers that buff the player, to give players a serotonin hit masked in-game as a ‘sense of hollow progression’. It’s not as though Superhot had become outdated, but this shot in the arm keeps it unexpectedly fresh right out of the gate.
Unlike the linear path to integration Superhot had players endure, Mind Control Delete plays out along a more branching path. There are no individual levels as players must conquer several ‘nodes’, made up of several bite-sized, roguelike scenarios each. It’s a one-and-done deal and failure at any point reverts you back to the beginning, leading to a lot of tense, white-knuckle finishes. Of course, the hacks help create a sense of irresistible power and there are a lot of them so it’s easy to synergise between them on the run which helps each attempt feel unique. The baseline experience for each node is determined by the core you opt for. After starting with the More core, which grants you an extra heart, you quickly obtain others. My personal go-to was the Recall core, which not only gifts you a katana for each level but also lets you summon it back to you. If you’re lucky, the game will deal out complimentary hacks to you such as ‘defall.hack’ which, upon slicing a bullet out of the air, returns every discharged bullet back to the red who fired it.
It’s tremendously fun to toy with the countless possible ways to play Mind Control Delete, though the roguelike nature of it feels at odds with the spirit of Superhot which, to me, was an exercise in trial and error, as well as the pursuit of the perfect run once you’d learned the spawn chart of the map. That and roguelikes have a habit of getting old quickly and Mind Control Delete goes dangerously close to becoming an exhausting endeavour.
Mind Control Delete doesn’t stop at just empowering the player, the reds, too, have come into this expansion with a few new tricks. Though still humanoid in appearance, different kinds of red will invade the node as the A.I. bears down and you feel the weight of their steadfast hope to delete you. Usually entirely red, one of the new enemy types will be made of the same indestructible surfacing as the world itself, bar for one vulnerable limb which demands tremendous anticipation on the player’s behalf. Another has shrapnel embedded in its head and, like a time bomb, explodes, sending bullets in all directions. One of the most satisfying moments in Superhot comes when you exhaust your last round on a red, only to pluck its gun from mid-air and resume the slaughter. Another new enemy, all-red including its gun, makes this an impossibility and ratchets up the challenge in those split-second decisions that rest at the heart of the Superhot experience.
Those who found themselves deep-diving forums to understand the brain-bashing meta narrative that Superhot let unfold between the bouts of frenetic chaos, Mind Control Delete doubles-down on the original’s deep lore, introducing a lot of fascinating concepts as well as invulnerable boss-like characters, presumed lost and corrupted at the program’s hands, that spawn at random into maps and pursue you, with their own mastery of the program’s cores, in a heart-pounding twist on the formula. Dog, easily recognisable with two pointed, upright ears protruding from his head, has a sad story—they all do—which trickles out through text logs that can be found on the overworld’s branching map.
Superhot’s distinct and gorgeous art direction is still firmly intact as the game’s several maps, which you’ll see on loop a lot during the game’s dozen hours, are all rich with detail and even more debris to pick up in a pinch and hurl across the room. Mind Control Delete has a number of tremendous moments where the already abstract maps distort and collapse around the player, though they’re not limited to combat-centric levels as a few of the small levels that make effort to exposit the game’s plot use this same visual flair and it’s just mindblowing.
Mind Control Delete is a slapdash, new home for Superhot adorers because, while it won’t capture its audience in the same way the original did, it stays true to a lot of what made Superhot great. Its brutalist, geometric playgrounds are still ripe for strategic mayhem and it carries on the original’s legacy for high-concept storytelling while pressing on into a new age of Superhot.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Superhot’s standalone expansion Mind Control Delete is a great example of how to achieve growth, drive your franchise forward and prevent an admittedly pretty basic concept from going stale. Before I knew I was ready for a change, Superhot Team thrust age-old video game tropes into gaming’s most unique shooter in ways only they could and, in a crazy twist, it works.