Super Motherload Review

Dig that serenity.

Beneath the surface of Mars lies tranquility. The exotic planet houses valuable minerals amid the impenetrable rocks, and as you survey the vast subterranean world, a serenity washes over you. It's not the treasures that drive you many leagues below the surface, nor is it the promise of unraveling a mysterious conspiracy. No, it's the desire for solitude that serves as your motivation. A calm that can only exist when the tight spaces surrounding you provide comfort, rather than claustrophobia, and every clump of dirt you push aside puts you one meter further from civilization. There's pleasure in Super Motherload's excavation duties, and it's that escape that pulls you ever deeper into this alien world.

Of course, you weren't set to Mars to unwind from the everyday toils of life on Earth. The unquenchable greed of a starving corporation shuttled you to this distant oasis. The Solarus Corporation craves money, its very existence dependent upon expanding its already bursting coffers. And so you dig for gold and silver, trigger explosions, and circumvent magma, all to keep the powers that be happy. It's a thankless job, so you find respite where you can, but their presence is a constant reminder. The dreamy contentment of rhythmic mining is shattered when voices scream in your ear, extolling you to dive ever deeper. As if there was any other direction to travel. Hints of psychotic episodes infecting those already stationed below ground, of alien civilizations threatened by your largesse, offer more distraction than intrigue, and never blossom into fulfilling tales.

So you tune out the noise. Your capable driller eliminates debris as quickly as it can soar up vertical passageways. Carve tunnels beneath the two-dimensional landscape, shifting away dirt in strategic paths to ensure that whatever mineral you desire becomes yours. Smart planning leads to copious rewards. As mobile as your driller is, it's unable to burrow while hovering, so if you're not careful, troves of platinum and emeralds might rest within sight but out of reach, repeatedly lecturing you for being so sloppy. A feeling of accomplishment washes over you as you scoop up the many minerals that populate this world. There's little guidance in how best to proceed, so when you figure out how to make the many gems and minerals yours, you feel as if you earned whatever spills into your purse.

There's pleasure in Super Motherload's excavation duties, and it's that escape that pulls you ever deeper into this alien world.

Your driller is agile, yes, but also fragile. Without enemies to fear, it's your own carelessness that provides the biggest danger. Even with this knowledge, it's easy to forget about your own vulnerability. The lone propeller atop your craft provides surprising lift, and as you careen joyfully toward the surface, smashing into an ill-placed rock can lead to a quick grave. However, punishment won't leave much of a mark. Your cargo is unceremoniously taken away, but you're allowed to carry on undeterred. It's your driller's other failings that provide the most distress. Fuel is as valuable as anything on Mars, and your cargo hold is quite small. As you quickly eat away at your gasoline and extra space, your driller soon becomes useless. So you must resurface to the nearest station, where you unload your goods and refill. This is a frequent and unsatisfying necessity of life underground. And though you can purchase expensive teleporters, you spend too much time drifting between your base and the excavation site.

At least you can make use of all of the money you're accumulating. Upgrade your driller when you return back to base to extend its life ever so slightly. Expand the cargo hold and fuel tank, strengthen your hull, and improve the speed of your craft. Sink money into a radar to be able to identify which debris is desirable, and what's just dirt. Unfortunately, the radar isn't much help. The more money you spend on it, the more focused it becomes, but it's rarely detailed enough to provide information that you couldn't gleam from just using your eyes. At least the other upgrades offer more tangible rewards. The option to smelt materials provides the most interesting upgrade. Your smelter unlocks combinations that can earn you money much quicker. By nabbing materials in a specific pattern, you automatically forge alloys, which adds a dose of strategy to your shoveling duties.

What devilish person set up such intricate traps a mile below Mars' surface?

As you dive deeper below the surface, the terrain becomes more difficult to navigate. Rocks and magma halt your progress, so you must find clever ways to avoid them. That's where bombs come in. By either picking up bombs while digging or purchasing them at shops, you gain an invaluable way to borrow deeper. Be careful, though, because a sizable C4 blast could eliminate nearby pockets of gold even though you were trying to disintegrate some rocks. So, just like in real life, you should do a bit of planning before you detonate your explosives. T-shaped blasts are perfect for carving out a niche to dig while vertical strikes can clear an entire column in a snap. Charge certain blocks with an electromagnetic jolt to turn them into magma, and then either use a bomb to clear that lava out of the way, or drill through it yourself while taking some damage. Super Motherload hides its puzzle elements in the early going, but if you want to become the richest person on Mars, you have to become a thoughtful and willing arsonist.

There's beauty in loneliness. Super Motherload is at its best when you're miles below Mars' surface, lost in the peaceful rhythm of excavation. But if that solitude frightens you, three of your friends can join you in your quest for minerals. Just don't get your hopes up for online friendships to blossom; Super Motherload is offline only. No matter if you're alone or with friends, there's an uncommon appeal to your extraterrestrial exploits. There's no excitement here, nothing that will make you whoop or yell. The draw comes from the slow satisfaction of carving intricate paths, of razing rocks and planting bombs. It's thoughtful desolation. Super Motherload somehow makes alienation feel like a warm embrace.

The Good
Quiet satisfaction from carving intricate paths
Strategic appeal in using bombs smartly
The Bad
Story interruptions serve as a distraction
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Tom has developed a close relationship with digging in recent years. From the expansive worlds of Terraria to the robotic plunders in SteamWorld Dig, he seems to continually wield a digital shovel. He spent seven hours digging into Super Motherload and was stymied by many of its puzzles.

Discussion

12 comments
caninexrs
caninexrs

God, I remember playing the original Motherload almost 9 years ago. It was a ton of fun, and I'm surprised and happy they came out with a sequel after all these years.

I'll be getting the PC version.

Romeric87
Romeric87

Great review. I really like how each review specifies how long was spent with the game now. Some really great design decisions have been made on GameSpot recently - the new site really is an improvement. Also, the quality of writing, across the board, is really very good. Keep up the good work! 

It's just a shame that people are so hung up on the shiny number attached to each review. Too many people check the score and then troll the hell out of the author if they happen to disagree. Your review of the Last of Us was a perfect example of this. The written stuff is where all the reviewing is done - the score simply sets the tone and gives people pushed for a time a quick reference.

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

i though this was NEXT GENERATION, no offense i love ps4 and all, but if i wanted to play this "kind" of games i would simply get them on steam or my phone. Come on developers, i know indie games are cool, but start making some real games. With the technology and power PS4 has, its a shame to see this games, its a waste of hardware. is like driving a Ferrari TestaRosa just to go to AutoMac. What a waste

pcty
pcty

I thought this was an OUYA exclusive.

kachal
kachal

I read Tom's reviews like I'm reading a child's essay, I try to be nice but if a minute later you ask me what essay' topic was, I don't remember.

lukey52
lukey52

They had this game on a site called xgenstudios years ago. Played it on a web browser back then and thoroughly enjoyed doing it.


I must be one of the few people looking forward to trying this game out again. Shame it got next to no love (a few minutes with Danny and Chris I think?) during the PS4 launch stream or the Xbone vs PS4 stream. 7 is a solid score.

glitch2424
glitch2424

@Romeric87 
The points Tom mentioned in his Last of Us review that "bumped" down the score I did not mind/notice much (such as AI mishaps - which was to serve gameplay and reduce player frustration). It's still one of the worst reviews  on gamespot. If Last of Us gets even nominated for game of the year across all sites/organizations (which it will), you can probably tell from that fact how bad that review was. Hmmm - a game given an average score becomes GOTY? Yep, that review was spot on.

The special case with Tom is that he has his own view of what games should be like, and that's a bias that will follow him for the rest of his career, better or for worse. I have my own bias of games, don't get me wrong, but if I'm reviewing games for a living, I try to go into a game with a blank mindset.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@Romeric87 Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you're enjoying what the new site is capable of.

Freedomination
Freedomination

@eze_sl89 Would the PS4 be better if it didn't have this game? Because i'm pretty sure the developers didn't decide to scrap that AAA title they had planned to make this instead

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@eze_sl89 Oh cool it. Some people like me have actually been waiting for this game more than a year now.

bonesawisready5
bonesawisready5

@eze_sl89 Geez calm down. Not everything needs to be Killzone, Uncharted, etc. This is actually an amazing, fun and eerie game.

Super Motherload More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Super Motherload is a 1 to 4-player couch co-op digging adventure with storyline by Image Comics' Kurtis Wiebe and a procedurally-generated world that changes each time you play.
    7
    Average User RatingOut of 4 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    XGenStudios
    Published by:
    XGenStudios
    Genres:
    Action, Puzzle
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence