With the next generation of consoles finally here, it’s refreshing to see that independent titles have a space among big-budget AAA titles. XGen’s Super Motherload, the sequel to their non-super flash game version made several years ago, was one of these titles headlining the PS4’s launch on PSN. Combining elements from puzzle games, action, adventure and even some RPG trappings for good measure, Super Motherload expands on the original in every way possible, bringing along more materials for you to mine, new items to use, as well as an intriguing (and sometimes eerie) storyline set amongst an alternate cold-war era as it’s backdrop.
Plopped on to the surface of mars as another new miner for the prestigious Solarus corporation, You are given little reason as to why you’re here other than to mine precious minerals embedded in the planet’s crust. Armed with your handy drilling machine (part tank – part drill – part helicopter), you begin your journey downward into the depths below the surface. The main thing you’ll be doing during the game, similar to the original, is mining materials, cashing these materials in at the vendors to get money, then using that money to buy upgrades to allow you to drill harder minerals , make your drill better, drive your machine faster (and make yourself stronger, of course). The simplicity of the main gameplay loop of going in, getting stuff, returning to the vendors and then improving your ability to get more stuff can quickly engross you within it’s repeating cycle, while you focus on getting rarer materials to earn even more money.
When just concentrating on digging and gathering, you can sometimes forget that there’s actually a storyline being played out as you dig deeper and deeper towards the centre of mars, unearthing hidden secrets about the red planet, your colleagues, and the mysterious figurehead from Solarus, Tiberius. The fully-voiced cutscenes, triggered at various points in the game, give an insight into what’s been going on below ground and the fate of those who came before you, usually involving another employee of solarus, or other personnel on mars, contacting you via radio communication. These short vignettes never overstay their welcome, before dropping you back into the game.
Certain events during the course of the game, usually accompanied with a specific cutscene, trigger mini-challenges that you have to complete to access the next area to be able to continue digging. This could range from finding relics, spaceship parts or a number of different items, scattered around the surrounding area. These trials help to mix up the formula a bit, but if you’re unable to locate the items quickly, it can become somewhat tedious, especially since you have no indication as to where these specific items are located and basically need to scour the dirt surrounding the area until you find them all. If you’re lucky, this can be over quickly if the items happen to spawn close to where you’re looking.
In addition to single player, Super Motherload can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players at once, with drop-in, drop-out gameplay. At any point in the game, additional players can pick up a controller, press start and jump straight into your current position as a different character piloting an alternate coloured drill-tank. The default of selection of characters starts off with 2 male & 2 female characters, each with unique voices and accents, with more characters unlockable (including space dog laika).
Playing with multiple players transforms the game from a controlled, solitary experience to a tense and sometimes frantic group effort as you all try to plan ahead, plot out your course, and ensure everyone survives and no-one gets themselves or others trapped due all players being confined to within one main viewpoint. Thankfully, there’s not really a lot other players can do to grief one another, save stealing the more valuable minerals in an area or using bombs to destroy an item or mineral that another player may have been blocks away from obtaining.
If you have a few buddies nearby, this would be a great game to get everyone playing to see how well you can co-operate to get to the centre of mars. Being able to play multiplayer online would have been a nice feature to have, but just having local or couch-co-op still gives you the chance to invite people over and play a game together in person, which more games are ignoring these days.