In today’s world with unlimited video games at your fingertips, it’s common to spend too much time deciding what you want to play. It’s not your fault. Third-person action blockbusters where you’ll spend as much time customizing your stats as blasting alien baddies? How about real-time strategy with tactical stealth? How can you be expected to play an involved JRPG when all you want to do is shoot at things? Foodies can get fusion cuisine, but what’s a hungry gamer to do?
Genre blending has been gaining popularity over the years but Digital Continue, developer of Next Up Hero and Lock’s Quest, has tried to up the ante with SuperMash in order to remedy the crisis of indecision – even if the results are a bit lacking.
The premise centers around a game shop run by Jume and Tomo that’s in need of help or they’ll have to close up shop. Game over, man. Thankfully, the two come across an older game console that has special powers, allowing them to mix two genres to create a unique blend of game that must be completed in a short burst of time. This is where you, the player, comes in: you’re able to mix and match six different, yet familiar genres of classic and indie games: Platformer, Action Adventure, Shoot ‘Em Up, Metrovania, Stealth, and JRPG.
You’ll also collect dev cards that further customize the games you choose to play. With that in mind, it’s time to suit up and help the siblings try to find the good ones to sell for profit to help save the store.
Despite the implication, SuperMash isn’t about actually “creating” a game, but blending existing pieces to make something new and interesting. It’s not even Super Mario Maker. But SuperMash highlights the absurdity of controlling a fighter jet like as would a character in a JRPG that zooms into turn-based combat when attacking. Or adding stealth mechanics to a classic shmup with helicopters flying around as sentry points on the ever-scrolling map. The shooting can feel natural in a shmup, though never quite like Contra would when matched with platforming. The JRPG sections feel slow and leveling up doesn’t matter in the flow of these games. When you remove the absurdity, it just feels primitive.
Playing through the story has you navigating around in a modern 3D environment, though when jumping into the console world the aesthetics switch abruptly. The switch can feel awkward as some match their respective genres while others match the console generations, but then you have sprites that feel ripped from the PlayStation (the original PlayStation). The menus look too sharp and never quite fit with the overall aesthetic of the individual games. If only Digital Continue had opted for some uniform presentation tying everything together than perhaps the overall look wouldn’t feel so jarring.
The novelty of SuperMash is interesting but doesn’t shine the way it could. The prospects of playing a unique mashup of different game genres you created is both cool and exciting, but this feeling of limitless possibilities quickly crashes like a buggy game. There’s just not enough variety within the genres, and they don’t always blend in ways you’d actually want to play. Digital Continue has promised more genres in the future, including a version for the Nintendo Switch that will let you share levels with friends. With hope, those changes to gameplay and style might help it reach its potential as something worth creating – and actually playing.