The gameplay and progression in SuperEpic might feel familiar to begin with, but what starts out as a simple Metroidvania quickly becomes much more. Themes from throughout the history of games are used to tell a story with very real and extremely worrying implications; that big-name developers are just out for our money, and don’t care about the quality of the games they put out.
This sobering thought is caveated by the huge number of hilarious Easter eggs players can find in the nooks and crannies of the game, from small obscure references to ancient games most people today might not have heard of, to characters almost entirely stolen from well-known TV shows, like Scruffy The Janitor of Futurama.
SuperEpic revolves around the use of three key attacks – a quick attack, guard break, and uppercut – and the in-depth exploration of each level. The game’s controls are responsive, making combat and platforming encounters feel challenging yet fair. There are very few platforming puzzles or secret areas to navigate, and only the occasional moment where exact buttons presses are needed for the hardest fights, but overall SuperEpic feels goods to play. On the Switch Lite, in particular – which feels like a far more robust console in itself – the game plays like the console was made for it.
The story of SuperEpic stars a racoon and a llama storming the office of the world’s one and only remaining game developer, Regnantcorp. The company controls consumer spending by releasing awful free-to-play games that require in-game purchases to win, and each one is designed to make users spend as much money as possible. A renegade group working from within helps the protagonists begin their journey, and assists them along the way with helpful upgrades and abilities.
The game’s story is enjoyable, adding context to the different floors of Rengnantcorp’s almost endless office, but the environment is the real star of the show. Each area players progress through is a different floor of the building, linked by both the clever secret back-tracking pathways which are common in Metroidvanias as well as a huge elevator that makes things a lot clearer.
Floors and bosses are themed around certain aspects of free-to-play games, whether that’s the Slave Team Builder, whose design is based on every middle-manager that works their underlings to the bone on a daily basis, or the Senior Monetization Vampire, an actual vampire that drains money from consumers until they become ghosts. The Vampire’s domain is an ancient castle filled with the spirits of consumers, and the Spying Network Architect’s lair is a huge collection of long corridors filled with servers.
SuperEpic’s soundtrack only adds to the world inside Regnantcorp’s office. One floor’s music sounds as if it was pulled directly from a classic Sonic game, and another feels almost akin to the creepy music of Castlevania and, weirdly enough, Lavender Town from Pokémon Red and Blue. As if the environments weren’t enough, the music really hammers home just how much SuperEpic is inspired by a love of classic games and the days when the only way to play them was to physically leave the house and head to the arcade.
Working through each new floor requires players to upgrade their weapons and stats, which is where the renegade group comes into play. By defeating enemies players earn coins, and these coins can be spent on stat upgrades or new weapons for each of the three available attacks. Weapons and defensive items can be upgraded, and trinkets found in the world to provide boosts for specific play styles. In this way SuperEpic breaks the Metroidvania mould to provide players with strategic advantages should they come up against an especially tough challenge.
Keeping in theme with free-to-play games, SuperEpic has two currencies. The more premium currency is used to buy new attacks and abilities, which aren’t essential, but definitely help as more enemies pile onto the screen in later floors. These upgrades feel meaningful almost immediately because each new floor comes with a difficulty spike that will kill players quickly if they’re not prepared. On the plus side, this makes back-tracking for secrets a lot easier with the advantage of more powerful gear.
Dying can be a crippling punishment in SuperEpic. Toilets (as in real life, ahem) mark save points, but they can be few and far between if players spend too long exploring. A helpful mechanic will revive players once between saves at the cost of half their cash, but dying again will reset them to the last save point. Careful players won’t find this a problem, but those who get too carried away with exploring will suffer from the harsh, yet fair, punishment.
Exploration is rewarded in SuperEpic in more ways than just items or premium currency. Littered throughout the Regnantcorp building are rewards hidden behind impenetrable laser doors. Nearby QR codes can be scanned with a smartphone to load one of Rengantcorp’s horrific minigames, which must be completed to a certain level if players want to unlock the reward in front of them. These minigames are a great way for collectors and completionists to get their fix, but are far from essential. However, the context they add to the game’s story, building on the tale of the world’s biggest rip-off merchant, is genius.
Minigames can also be played at certain junctions of the game to unlock more in-game currency, which gives players an easy way to upgrade their attack for the current area, but once again is far from needed for a playthrough. SuperEpic is at its best when being as satirical and on the nose as possible. One boss fight sees players working their way through what is almost an entirely copied Castlevania level, with their attacks and abilities stripped away, and another makes them fight against Metal Gear. Yes, that Metal Gear.
Going into it, players might find the humour in SuperEpic a tad too cutting for their taste, but once a few floors have gone by, the laughs start to seep through in almost every aspect, including the way that Regnantcorp employees seem to constantly sleep at their desks and do no work. The tone of the game breaks up how grueling some of the combat can be when faced with a long corridor full of enemies that are incredibly annoying to fight, making for a much more well-balanced experience that feels more than at home on the Nintendo Switch. While it makes a point of poking fun at the state of the games industry, SuperEpic is also a lot of fun to play.