Review: Super Motherload (PS4)

The day the PS4 came out in the U.S. I went to the digital store to see what indie games had made launch.  I saw Super Motherload and took a look at the pictures and thought “it kinda looks like Dig Dug but why is it $15?”  About a week later I decided to browse the Live from Playstation app and watched a Twitch stream of someone playing.  It kinda looked like Dig Dug but without any enemies.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand how that could be fun. Finally, over the weekend while playing Battlefield 4 with a friend he said “It’s pure catharsis.”  Intrigued and feeling carefree with the help of some Jameson I hopped onto the store and bought it… and then I promptly went to sleep.

The following day I woke up and saw it there and decided to give it a go. I started digging.  Feels good.  The game isn’t a looker but it’s not ugly either.  The art style is simple, the graphics don’t attempt to do anything special. That’s not what this game is about.  I started digging and collecting metals and bombs and gems and then returning to the surface to sell them, repair and refuel, and then head back down.  It’s a fairly simple loop but I found myself in a trance.  You can buy upgrades that make it so you can carry more ore, or carry more fuel to dig deeper, or even expand your radar.

While not a technical showpiece for your shiny new $400 machine this game is sublime.

While not a technical showpiece for your shiny new $400 machine this game is sublime.

The game is a grind but it doesn’t ever feel like a grind.  In fact Super Motherload feels like it’s giving my OCD a massage.  I go down, find some awesome metals, I bring them back up, I upgrade, I go back down.  Then the music kicks in.  Oh man… THE MUSIC!  Sometimes spacey, sometimes lively, sometimes (but rarely) paranoid it always fit exactly how I was feeling.  At this point I knew I was in love with the game but I still couldn’t put my finger exactly on why.  I thought it was almost cynical, like a crappy iOS game, where it’s just playing on my desire to fill meters.  But then I dug a little bit deeper and I got a transmission from some miners down deeper about some not-so-pleasant things happening.  I instantly was intrigued.  I had to get deeper.  It still was the same loop and my OCD was getting the massage of a lifetime but I now had a purpose.

Next thing I knew I had been playing for four hours.  To say it’s the type of game where you say “ok just one more turn” is the understatement of the year.  I find it nearly impossible to quit the game.  I get up top and deliver my goods and get my money and see the autosave icon and think “I can qui…..  NO YOU CAN’T GO BACK DOWN THERE RIGHT NOW!!!”  It’s wonderful.  I am constantly happy while playing this game.  It is mostly relaxing as well; which is a nice change of pace from the action-heavy PS4 launch lineup.  The story does continue to unfold and intrigue as well which gives the game urgency from time to time.

I’ve probably played about 15 hours of Super Motherload in four days now.  I am completely hooked.  I’m still slightly perplexed by the $15 price point but I wouldn’t be able to argue that I haven’t gotten $15 worth of entertainment out of it.  Heck, I’ve gotten more entertainment out of it than most of the games I spent $60 on this year.  I haven’t died in over a dozen hours.  I’m never really in danger.  There’s no high score to accumulate.  But, gosh darnit, this game is such a joy to play that it doesn’t matter.  I would compare it to Flower in how at ease it puts me.  If I had to choose a genre to list it in I guess I would go with Puzzle game (?) or maybe Puzzle Adventure if that’s even a genre(?). There’s local multiplayer and a hardcore mode once you finish it, or so I’ve been told, I’m still so lost in the experience. I don’t understand what’s going on deep inside Mars or why I care so much and derive so much pleasure from trying to find out but I’m going to keep digging because I want to.  I really, really, want to.  It’s pure catharsis.


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