SuperMash is a multicart thrown into a blender.
I distinctly remember my first exposure to multicarts. I had just popped in Midway’s Greatest Arcade Hits for the N64, and my mind was a tizzy with excitement. How could gaming get any better than this? This experience brought back even older memories of wandering through arcades, paralyzed by the endless possibility of games. Surely, SuperMash, a game that purports to improve on the multicart — by taking the games and amalgamating them together — couldn’t possibly be a miss. But, after playing, I’m reminded by a fact that I discovered that day in front of the N64. There is a reason some cabinets collect dust in a forgotten corner of the arcade, or that the bargain bin is often filled with multicarts; more is not necessarily better.
Less is more
Let me give credit where credit is due: Digital Continue — the developers — are ambitious. When I first heard about the game, I almost couldn’t believe that the concept hadn’t been done before. It had that much promise. For those unfamiliar, SuperMash is essentially a game generator. It takes two seemingly opposing genres and ‘mashes’ them together. You pick your flavor from JRPG, Platformer, Shoot ’Em Up, and a few other standard game genres, and you blend two of them together. You then play through the resulting concoction with a randomized character, weapon set, and power-ups.
Sounds great, right?
Well, there’s a problem. If you’ll allow me to continue with the blender analogy, I never actually got something drinkable. No matter how often I worked the blender, I never actually got Strawberry Banana or Passionfruit Punch. The resulting mix was more of an off-putting shade of grey with a bitter aftertaste. Sure, you have a lot of combinations to choose from, but I never once created something worth remembering. At best, the resulting game was a forgettable platformer. At its worst, SuperMash would generate a game that was unbeatable or just downright awful.
I have a feeling most players could intuit the issue. The genres offered actually aren’t all that dissimilar. If you sat a handful of even the most passionate gamers in a room, I doubt many could offer a list of major differences between a Metroidvania (called ‘Metrovania’ here) and a Platformer, or between a JRPG and an Action-Adventure game. After all, isn’t platforming a fundamental element in all Metroidvanias? Don’t most JRPGs cross the line into Action Adventure?
When you get down to brass tacks, your choices are absurdly limited. To make matters worse, a few of the genres don’t blend well at all. It often occurred that one genre dominates the resulting hybrid. For instance, if you put Stealth and Shoot ’Em Up together, you’re really not playing a Stealth game at all, you’re running around blasting guards with a spread gun à la Super C. The only mechanism that SuperMash seems to impart from the Stealth genre is the ability to be detected by roaming enemies. But, big whoop, that guard could have detected me. I blasted him the moment he came on the screen.
More variety, more bugs
If the core issues weren’t enough, SuperMash‘s experience is also laden with bugs. I already mentioned how the game occasionally created a stage that was unbeatable, and I’ll admit, that is more of a design flaw than a quote, unquote, “glitch.” But, worry not, I encountered my fair share of genuine problems during my time.
I feel like a broken record saying this, but I was actually sort of excited that there was a story behind the madness of SuperMash. There was a cutesy cutscene at the beginning which introduced the main character, Tomo, finding the titular SuperMash system at a garage sale. The characters seemed overly mystified by its existence, and there was a bit of intrigue there. That was good enough for me; I was on board. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even get past the first mission. I was tasked with beating 3 stages of the game, which I did, several times over, yet the mission would simply reset with every single level I played. So, if more of the mystery was to be unveiled in the story, I never got to see it.
I haven’t been this disappointed by an Indie game in a while. I wanted to love SuperMash, I really did. The concept is still an enticing one, but in its current iteration, it’s nothing more than a game generator — and a poor one at that. I’ll wait patiently for the day that this game is done correctly; it will be a spectacular experience. I won’t lie. I’d love to see Nintendo take a crack at it.