Super Motherload (PS4) Review
Ben Sheene / Nov 25th, 2013 No Comments
When Sony first revealed the PlayStation 4 it provided ample reason to be excited about the next generation of gaming. Titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveClub and inFamous: Second Son looked incredible. As the months went on, the company grew increasingly adamant about their focus not just on triple-A gaming experiences but on the indie developers. The PlayStation 4 would be home to big shooters, open worlds, and efforts from smaller studios that would typically release their games on PC. For the past month or so, we knew what to expect from the launch lineup of the PS4. But back in February would anyone have believed that the next generation system would also launch with a remake of a nearly decade old Flash game? Doubtful. Yet here is Super Motherload, a remake of the popular Motherload game by XGen Studios. Though it might not be the type of next gen title some were expecting, how does it hold up with the rest of the PS4 launch library?
Taking place on Mars in an alternate version of the Cold-War era, players control a miner from the Solarus Corporation. In the future, Solarus discovered that the red planet housed precious minerals deep beneath its crust. These resources would put an end to the energy crisis affecting Earth. As they continued to dig, Solarus built facilities on and under the surface of the planet hoping to discover more wealth and whatever secrets were buried there. But when communications from Mars suddenly go silent, the player and other new recruits are sent to investigate the cause.
In general, the plot of Super Motherload isn’t that complex. To be fair, the gameplay and general premise can only sustain a very short, focused narrative without being utterly ridiculous. Often a smaller title might loosely construct a story just for the sake of it, almost as an afterthought. Here, however, the concise nature of this trip to Mars nails down a choice few sci-fi tropes and breathes life into them. The concept of being stranded alone in space while under the threat of an unknown, alien entity is certainly nothing new. Super Motherload chooses not to rewrite the book and instead breaks up the thousands of feet of digging with creepy and foreboding radio conversations. Players encounter threatened outposts, fellow miners, and a mysterious being over the course of their journey. It’s engaging and surprisingly deep inside the Martian core.
Just like in the original, Super Motherload is all about digging. Players take control of a very capable mining vessel that can fly, collect resources and even sustain digging through magma.Under the surface of Mars are various ores like copper, gold, platinum, rubies and diamonds that are all worth different amounts of money. By cashing in their cargo, players receive money for gas, hull repairs and upgrades. Upgrading the fuel tank will allow longer and deeper drilling, improving the maximum cargo size will increase how many resources can be collected and so on. After a few basic upgrades, Super Motherload turns into a type of resource management game. Which upgrades are the most essential for progression? What will help collect the most valuable resources for maximum profit?
It is all very simple initially. Collecting the same resource consecutively will begin a chain that adds a cash bonus. So while it might seem like a good idea to just dig for everything, planning is vital. This also becomes important when smelting together resources. Upgrading the driller’s smelter unlocks combos which are the best way to turn a profit. For example, instead of just collecting a ruby and then a piece of copper, grab the diamond first to create a “red diamond”. This mechanic is a nice touch and further adds to planning a dig rather than just blindly tunneling. Gameplay only truly gets dull after the player runs out of fuel and must travel several thousand feet back to a refueling station. Initially it isn’t so bad but does become an annoyance near game’s end. However, players wanting more of a challenge can switch to the hardest difficulty. Situations are much more tense as running out of fuel means instant death and death means losing that character’s entire progress.
Throughout the randomly generated underground, there are some puzzles in place that require the use of bombs. A valuable object or collection of resources will be tucked under rocks or metal platforms. A wide selection of bombs are at the player’s disposal to not only go deeper, but to blow past obstacles. Bomb selection actually takes advantage of the DualShock 4’s touch pad. A directional swipe or click of the pad will active a certain type of bomb. While it can take a few tries to master, it adds a nice touch (those wishing to avoid it completely can just use button presses).
The game also features multiplayer but is restricted to local couch co-op. Up to four friends can share fuel and success together, or just be mean to each other. Because players have to stay close together, the map can get a little tight at times but it isn’t always an issue. It’s just unfortunate that there is no option for online multiplayer as not everyone has a friend or multiple controllers readily available. One of the best parts about having Super Motherload on the PS4 is being able to use Remote Play to play the game on Vita. The style of gameplay is perfectly suited for the handheld and truly does feel like a pick-up-and-go experience.
Graphics & Sound
Though the game is a PS4 launch title, it won’t be blamed for over-taxing anyone’s system. Nothing in the visual department is overwhelmingly “next-gen” but, considering the scope of the title, it’s understandable. The simple visuals actually hold up quite well and fill the depths of Mars with a lot of colorful jewels. Not only does it run smooth, it looks crisp; that’s certainly no complaint. One highlight is the art style used with character portraits and story scenes. Looking like they were pulled from a comic or pulp novel, those elements give the game further personality.
The overall voice acting is decent. At times it can sound a little hokey but that is probably due to the fact that most dialogue is delivered through radio transmissions which are already meant to be drenched in static. As solid and addicting as the gameplay can be, Eric Cheng’s incredible soundtrack provides an equally enticing experience. Each track nails the moment it is scored for. Opening track “Frontiers” pumps the player up for this exciting mission on a foreign planet. As layers of soil and plot are uncovered, the music can go from sinister to creepy to solemn. It’s certainly one of the better soundtracks of the year and impresses because of its ability to infuse emotion into a game that some might not think would warrant it. The only true gripe is that the music usually only plays either right before or after a “cutscene” divulges a little more story. It would have been nice to hear the more ambient tracks populate the game, especially on the long treks back to a refueling station.
Super Motherload is a surprising gem. Metaphors aside, it’s understandable that the game could get buried under the weight of heavy-hitters like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. Detractors of the next-gen might look at its simple visuals and scoff. But Super Motherload aims to be a fun game and that’s what it is. There are spots where it could use some polish, especially with implementing online co-op. Regardless, it is a title that is very much representative of Sony’s vision for a generation of console gaming populated by indies. Don’t let this one pass you by.
tags: playstation 4 , ps4 , review , Super Motherload , XGen Studios