Maybe the real game is all the games we made along the way
Every once in a while, a game explodes onto the scene with an idea so unique yet so simple, it leaves players puzzled, wondering why it hasn’t been done before. Untitled Goose Game was a perfect example — geese are terrible, and wreaking light havoc in a village is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Simple, original fun that fit like a glove in gamers’ hearts, as if it was always there.
For me, SuperMash, a game where you mash genres and procedurally generate an infinite amount of games based on the genres blended, is right up there with Untitled Goose Game. It seems like a no-brainer of an idea that would absolutely work, yet it took until the end of 2019 to finally get such an intuitive and ingenious game. Ah well, better late than never!
Developed and published by Digital Continue, SuperMash is a never-ending collection of games within a game. The plot follows Tomo and his sister, Jume, who have stumbled upon a mysterious machine which, their friend Rob discovers, can take two game cartridges and mash them into a completely new game. It’s a welcome distraction, as Jume learns that the landlord has sold the building in which her game shop resides, leaving the business she’s lovingly built up for the past four years hanging in the balance. Could this machine somehow help them keep their store? Only one way to find out!
During the main visual novel-style portion of SuperMash, players control Tomo as he walks around the shop and attends to customers. A handful will pop into the shop and ask for various games, like an easy, short JRPG or a kitty-friendly platformer. It’ll then be up to Tomo to create mashes (or genreblends, as Rob keeps insisting) that will appease customers and earn Jume some cash.
Of course, in order to give the customers what they want, you’ll have to actually play — and beat — the mash; this is where the real fun kicks in. By selecting from several available genres, such as JRPG, Metrovania, Shoot ’em Up, Action Adventure, Stealth, and Platformer, players can generate completely new games with randomized characters, goals, glitches, weapons, and more.
For example, the first game I truly got the hang of was a JRPG Metrovania, where the goal was to collect 100 ket (coins) at all costs. In an Action Adventure x 2 mashup, I found myself in a Zelda-like dungeon, where I was to achieve “my lifelong goal of finding the water stone in under 10 minutes”. Both games had glitches that kept the games interesting, like collecting coins every time I turned left or killing an enemy at random each time I activated my weapon. And speaking of weapons — I generated a rogue-lite type dungeon crawler with random battles, fighting dragons and whatnot, with an AK-47 because it’s dangerous to go alone, apparently. I had more fun generating the games than I did beating them, and I could easily see big influencers like Markiplier or Jacksepticeye getting a real kick out of doing the same.
The controls are pretty similar throughout the games, so no need to learn crazy control schemes each time you make a mash. The left mouse button is most likely to be the weapon, WASD moves your character, and space jumps (where possible). Depending on the game, the controls might either stay there, like in the platformer levels, or they might get slightly more involved, like in the JRPG titles. Overall though, it’s all extremely intuitive, and you’ll soon master these mashes before you know it.
As Tomo beats games and fulfills customer requests, he collects dev cards, which can be used to nudge the new games in a certain direction. The cards range from things like different enemies, players, mechanics, and environments; these are necessary to collect in order to continue fulfilling customers’ requests. This also makes the mid to late game more fun, as the requests start getting more specific, meaning you’ll have to complete more randomized games to keep progressing.
One aspect of SuperMash I really found added to the experience was the dialogue between Rob and Tomo during the games. When a glitch occurs for the first time, Rob cuts in over the game to ask what happened. Tomo responds in a confused but explanatory manner, informing Rob about the glitch, what it does, and what he did to trigger it. It reminds players that they’ve taken on the role of Tomo and not themselves, and I loved the nuanced way in which the dev team decided to explain the glitches to us. It’s such a slight design choice that adds so much extra value in the long run, and I was really impressed by the impact their short conversations had.
Every pixel in SuperMash is oozing with character. The titles and title cards are also procedurally-generated, and they all have years like 1987 – 1993 on the screens, really lending to a retro feel. The opening story sequences are absolutely ridiculous at times — one card spent an entire paragraph talking about how one heroine was going to change her name, and that the narrator wasn’t going to ask about it since she probably had a good reason for it. Even the emergent soundtracks got my toes tapping — from start to finish, SuperMash delighted me, mash after mash — I just couldn’t get enough!
I honestly only have one request — not complaint — for the dev team, and that’s to please make Tomo walk faster. He can walk the walk, but his pace is mildly irritating. Again, I’m not complaining, and I get that it’s probably a deliberate choice to make him walk carefully throughout his sister’s store, but would be nice if he could pick up the pace a bit. Unless he’s overencumbered by all the mashes I made? Hmm… the plot thickens!
All in all, SuperMash is supremely satisfying. It’s the game that’s long resided in our hearts, now finally available for our fingertips. If you’ve ever in your life thought that you’d like a turn-based Metrovania or a platforming shoot ’em up, now’s your chance to discover if your idea would be fun or even remotely work (spoiler alert: it’s a blast). If you’re looking for light-hearted fun with a surprisingly touching storyline and massive replayability value or you’re just generally in the mood for a great game, look no further than SuperMash.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Digital Continue; Developers: Digital Continue; Players: 1; Released: December 9, 2019; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of SuperMash given to the reviewer by the publisher.