Supermarket Shriek is as absurd as it is fun, and that’s saying a lot for a game about a goat and a grown man going shopping in a kart. The game is bogged down by some control issues and a lack of variety, but Supermarket Shriek on Xbox One ends up being a competent, funny party offering.
Supermarket Shriek’s control scheme makes it both a unique and occasionally frustrating co-op game. Pulling the left or right trigger makes the man or the goat scream, consequently steering the shopping kart left or right; pulling both of them down pushes the kart forward. If you’re playing by yourself this can be a real test of your hand-eye coordination as you swerve through tight corners and make last second drifts. There’s also a decent driving school section that acts as a tutorial, but it doesn’t fully represent what driving the kart feels like when you’re making snappy turns.
If you’re playing cooperatively, the kart’s often slippery handling can make the game hilarious, but its unpredictable nature isn’t ideal for long play sessions since after a while of failing unfairly, it will get annoying. The game also doesn’t have anywhere near as much strategy involved as other cooperative party experiences like Overcooked!, which also means it feels somewhat barebones after a few consecutive stages.
Alternatively, if you’re playing co-op and have two headsets with a microphone, each player can make as much noise as they can to have the characters shriek. This is another fun and novel idea that can get very frustrating and impractical in some of the game’s harder stages. You can’t really communicate with your partner since every time you make a noise the kart will move, which then restricts the entire point of playing co-op. Also, it goes without saying, but shouting into a headset for more than 5 minutes will inevitably lead to a headache and your neighbours will probably call the police.
The stages found in Supermarket Shriek are mainly split up into three categories. Taking place in various high street stores, there are obstacle courses where you’ll need to get through fire-pits, lasers and other deadly traps; collectathons, where you’ll literally need to go shopping and collect items and courses where the goal is to knock down piles of canned beans before the time runs out. It does a good job of slowly ramping up its difficulty, steadily introducing new types of obstacles, and some of the later stages in particular throw multiple traps at you back-to-back – avoiding them just in time can be immensely satisfying. The presence of a timer also means that you’ll always want to be on the move if you want the best score, turning some courses into an adrenaline fuelled race. However, by the mid-point, some of the stages feel incredibly repetitive. Sure, the difficulty continues to increase, but after a while you won’t be furiously dodging anything that the game hasn’t already thrown your way ten times.
The game’s hub world is just one long street stretching from left to right, with the stores progressively getting more luxurious. To progress through roadblocks you need a certain amount of stars that you can get from completing levels and beating time requirements. The hub world is pretty standard but there are 5 secret stages hidden in the environment. Some of these levels are the highlights of the entire game including totally different camera angles, visuals or sometimes a whole design based on other games. I won’t spoil any of these easter eggs but they are a joy to discover especially when the levels fundamentally change the overall nature. See, sometimes these levels will turn Supermarket Shriek into a stealth experience, or a racing game; one level even introduces time manipulation. These surprises are all genuinely refreshing detours; it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.
Further to all this, completing courses rewards you with cosmetic items the more you progress, usually in the form of glasses or hats. They’re moderately fun and silly but Supermarket Shriek is a genuinely bonkers game so it would’ve been nice to be able to customise the characters with some equally absurd equipment.
Aesthetically, Supermarket Shriek does a good job of keeping its levels fresh. Jumping from a noisy, colourful arcade to a fashion retail store means the game is always interesting to look at. But they aren’t just artificial changes either, as some levels will have themed obstacles. For example a butcher’s store will have carcasses hanging from hooks and meat grinders to avoid. It’s details like that that give this such a fun, goofy attitude.
In terms of audio, a light, smooth jazz soundtrack is pleasant, but is also sadly ruined by frustrating sound design. And as previously mentioned, the novelty of hearing a man and a goat scream is amusing for the first 10 minutes, but after 3-4 hours of playtime I’d rather listen to anything but that.
Despite some annoyances with the repetitive courses, Supermarket Shriek is a joy to play with a friend. Goofy stages, an absurd concept and just a general sense of fun are more than enough to make Supermarket Shriek a solid co-op party game. Plus, it’s just impossible to hate seeing a man and a goat scream while their tongues wiggle out in hyperbolic fashion.