The new Superhot game does something a little different: it makes you wait hours after the ending before you can play the game again.
THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
I’ll keep the spoilers very light here, but essentially, Superhot: Mind Control Delete, a time-bending puzzle shooter that came out on 16th July 2020, has a running theme of guilt – a guilt the player feels for wanting to play more of the game. There’s a sense throughout that Superhot itself feels like the player is an addict who struggles to let go. It’s called Mind Control Delete, after all.
And then we get to the ending. There’s no real way to “beat” Superhot: Mind Control Delete, in the sense that players can continue to play it for as long as they like before triggering the ending. But once you do trigger the ending, which I won’t spoil, the player is forced to leave the game running for two-and-a-half hours in order for Superhot to “recover deleted data”. There is no other in-game way to continue.
Interestingly, Superhot: MCD shipped with this lock set to eight hours, but the game was patched to reduce it to two-and-a-half hours (this patch is still not available on all platforms, so some on console still have to wait eight hours). Still, there’s been an interesting reaction to this ending, speculation as to why it’s in the game, what the developer is trying to do with it, and plenty of opinion on whether it’s clever – or just plain annoying.
Meanwhile, Superhot: MCD has a “very positive” user review rating on Steam, but some negative reviews are starting to hit the game’s page that are highlighting the ending situation. As more people find the ending, more people are having their say about the rights and wrongs of it.
“There’s a thin line between artistic expression and wasting my time,” wrote redditor Shaamaan on the Superhot sub.
So, what’s going on? I spoke to the game’s developers to find out what they were trying to achieve.
“The arbitrary amount we shipped with was eight hours, a perfect time to sleep on the game you just finished we thought,” co-director Marcin Surma said.
“You can leave it running overnight and have a fresh mind to see the results in the morning. We actually considered the eight hours quite lenient – we started with 24 hours but that felt a bit too restrictive: you’d end the same time of day you ended the game yesterday. And that’s no fun!”
The Superhot developers quickly changed this lock from eight hours to just over two hours via a patch because they saw issues with devices going into standby mode after a few hours and having saves corrupted.
As you’d expect, some PC players didn’t wait that long, and got around the lock using cheats, although the developers hope the new time will mean players are less inclined to use external tools.
“After all, we don’t want to punish the players, we want players to feel both the significance of what they themselves achieved during the ending, and to have a moment to be part of this experience more as performing along than just playing,” Surma continued.
“One of my favourite things is seeing people chime in on Discord saying, ‘hey guys I’m doing it let’s go!’ and posting updates on how much time they have left, using that time to talk about their experience of the game and to just have a breather and have it all sink in.”
Superhot fans are currently wondering if there’s some kind of message behind the ending lock, whether the developers are trying to say something about the world, video games and the people who play them.
It does feel like video game addiction is a theme running through Superhot, but according to co-director Cezary Skorupka, the standalone Mind Control Delete game is more about “greed and over-attachment”.
“We try to leave our games free for interpretation to the players and wouldn’t like to push our own narrative,” Skorupka said. “It’s much more powerful for someone to filter the game through the lenses of their own experiences. That said, in my view the original Superhot is more about addiction and Mind Control Delete is about greed and over-attachment.”
Adding to this, Surma suggested Mind Control Delete is also about “gluttony” and “letting go”. In this context, the ending lock starts to make a bit more sense as a kind of meta message that breaks the fourth wall. Still, the debate on whether the Superhot developers are being too clever for their own good continues.