Supraland describes itself as the ultimate “sandbox” adventure. However, this doesn’t mean what you may be expecting it to. In actual fact, the game is literally set in a boy’s sandbox. The action takes place across a scaled-down game world, only 9m squared in regular terms.
In fact, Supraland is a first-person adventure game with puzzle and RPG elements mixed in. There’s a loose direction for you to follow, with objectives to meet, but you are mostly left to explore on your own terms. It was first released last year for PC, and has now found its way to consoles, including the Xbox One.
As you play you’ll notice some inspiration taken from Mario, Zelda and the like, but the most striking thing for me is how the title music sounds like one of the themes from the original Pokemon games. Have a listen, and see what you think.
Anyhow, you start out by trying to discover why Red Town, where you come from, has suddenly run out of water. This acts as a quick tutorial to show you the ropes and introduces you to the saboteurs, who are from the neighbouring settlement of Blueville. And thus your adventure beings.
You’re tasked with heading to Blueville and trying to find out what on earth they are playing at. However, on the way you realise the environment is littered with secret areas containing treasure chests, puzzles and more. If you look up and want to try and reach somewhere, nine times out of ten there will be a way to do so.
I’m an explorer for sure, so there’s nothing more satisfying when my inquisitive approach yields rewards. Supraland is a game which rewards you handsomely for this, and the clever level design makes exploring such an attractive proposition. There’s plenty to find away from your main objective which can sometimes see you deviate from it for hours at a time. You’ll also come across areas that are inaccessible until you acquire the ability to reach them, prompting you to backtrack when you do to grab that elusive loot. What helps with this is boost pads that will ping you from area to area quickly that you can unlock as you go. It’s essentially “fast travel”, and comes in very handy.
Aside from searching for goodies, all the usual RPG elements are here – presented simply and clearly on your HUD. You have your health displayed, weapons with associated stats, and coins you have collected. All are upgradable and you’ll unlock many more as you play, such as the “Awesome Meter” which unlocks secret areas as you fill it.
Coins are important to collect, because you can spend them at shops on upgrades and new abilities. You’ll see the usual suspects here, such as double jump, sprint (or “fast” as it’s called here) and numerous weapon upgrades. Again, you’re rewarded in this way for exploring as the more coins you find, the quicker you’ll upgrade.
There are also barrels scattered around Supraland, and if you take them to a shop they will unlock another perk which will become available for purchase. However, it’s not all stuff you’ve seen before, as early on you’ll unlock the “force cube” ability. This allows you to create a cube, and if you are standing on top of it when you do, it will catapult you up into the air. The cube is also integral to solving several puzzles including those involving pressure switches and see-saws. Handy.
The other part of Supraland is the puzzling element. The challenges start off pretty simple, however when you are tasked with scaling a tower to retrieve the “MacGuffin”, the game starts to flex its puzzle muscles. It will require you to use several abilities to reach the top, and as you start to figure it out it’s hard not to feel genuinely satisfied seeing it all fit together. If you do get stumped by a puzzle however, a nearby NPC will often tell you how to solve it, instead of giving a cryptic clue.
Incidentally, the “MacGuffin” is a weapon, specifically a gun. It’s not just used to fight off enemies however; it can be used to solve puzzles too. The name once again drives home the message that Supraland is all about exploring, and other details are really unimportant.
Talking of enemies, they’ll be a constant thorn in your side, popping up everywhere. They can deal significant damage early doors, leaving you pretty vulnerable until you upgrade your health stats. You can eat cactus fruit to heal yourself, but you’ll take damage if you get too close without your armour on.
Naturally, the nasties will get nastier as you play. One particularly tricky customer reminded me of the Pokemon Golem, except with a molten lava core. A good way to do big damage to enemies such as this is to drop a force cube on them. It’s not easy to pull off, especially as it’s rolling towards you, but very satisfying when you do.
If you do die, thankfully you’ll respawn pretty much exactly from where you left off. You’re not punished for this, meaning you can go exploring without worrying about losing loads of progress as the game will autosave regularly.
Supraland is a light-hearted, comical take on the RPG adventure, centred around exploration. It’s a lot of fun and aimed at all ages, even if that does mean the difficulty is dialled down a bit. Its simplistic, colourful style still manages to look appealing, and it’s chirpy soundtrack fits in perfectly.
Supraland on Xbox One may be simplistic and a tad easy overall, but don’t let first impressions fool you. Its focus on exploratory gameplay makes it loads of fun to play. What results from it is a well-rounded, entertaining adventure which is one of the best experiences of its kind available today.