Super Motherload Review: Deep within Mars hides an indie gem
X-Gen Studios cult classic game, Motherload, has been revamped into a quality PS4 launch title called Super Motherload. Don’t let its simple looks fool you, it belongs in your PS4 library. You play as a miner for the Solarus Corporation on Mars. You’re tasked with unraveling a plot that has your fellow mining workers killing each other while also collecting some serious loot along the way. This inter-stellar adventure is truly addicting and top notch. Super Motherload stands as possibly the best local multiplayer game on the PS4 at launch and is a worthy addition to anyone’s game collection.
You control a mining ship that drills through Mars’s hard surface as you collect minerals, rocks, gems and various types of bombs. This may sound incredibly simply, and it is, but at the same time it is very dense. Getting that last diamond just before your ship runs out of fuel and successful getting it back to a save station is simultaneously nerve wracking and tremendously satisfying. It takes careful planning and some serious thought to achieve what you want with a limited supply of fuel and cargo space.
Since you can run out of fuel and fill up all your cargo space you’ll be returning to various points bases throughout the game. These bases serve as refueling centers, places to sell your loot, upgrade your ship and also as to save your game. Rushing back to a base to sell your collected items and fuel up should be repetitive but it never wears on you. This mechanic of “don’t go too far or you’ll regret it” is a large part of what makes Super Motherload so great.
The allure of seeing what else lies beneath as you excavate Mars keeps you coming back for more. Not only are you excited to see what new items you’ll find, you’ll also be delighted by the game’s environmental puzzles. Some high value items will be hidden behind metal or rock that must be destroyed to be accessed. The trick here is that your bombs will blow up all items and minerals too so you have to tread wisely.
Of course the further you progress the more upgrades you can purchase. You’ll be rolling in the money eventually and upgrades to your fuel tank, cargo hold, and health will make the experience even more entertaining as they extend the length you can descend into Mars. Upgrades to your drill, propeller are particularly important. Collecting and selling items in order to upgrade your ship’s abilities alone is addicting. Thankfully X-Gen has included a simple yet compelling story that keeps you hooked.
You work for Earth’s Solarus Corporation and right away you get a bit of an odd vibe from your leader, Tiberius. The deeper you go into Mars’s surface you’ll hear about Solarus mining outposts that have had a rash of murders. Some Solarus employees have gone mad and appear to be under the influence of mind control. Eventually you discover an ancient evil deep in Mars who may or may not be the culprit behind all of these murders.
At the same time, the Solarus Corporation wants to cover up the entire situation and never speak of it. This is a nice, subtle touch from X-Gen that makes you question who the real villains are. Do you sympathize with the people outed from their home land by an imperialist entity or do you think its right to take what you need if those people can’t beat you in a fight? The story never gets too complicated yet manages to be eerie and engaging.
Super Motherload doesn’t support online play but does allow four players to play together locally. This adds a new wrinkle to the game as each player shares the same fuel tank but can accomplish separate tasks simultaneously. Playing with a few friends is an absolute blast once everyone sinks their teeth into the game’s core mechanics.
The panicked, fearful feeling of dying and losing your cargo or running out of fuel is intensified with three friends. Super Motherload is one of the best local multiplayer games I’ve played all year and I’d recommend showing it off to your friends over any other launch title, even over the two-player split-screen in Call of Duty Ghosts. Yes, its that good.
Little things like the game’s art style and superb music adds to the experience exceptionally. The music is relaxing though it does come in at odd times. Often the music would cut entirely after receiving a transmission from someone and wouldn’t start again until the next major plot event in the game. I’m not sure if this was a glitch or intentional but the music is really great so I classify that as a subtraction.
The art style may be deceiving at times. Yes, you’ll see a lot of gray, brown and red. A lot of this makes perfect sense as you’re on Mars but the wide variety of colors in all other parts of the game, particular some fantastic work with the game’s character art, make up for any dull looking areas. This isn’t the game you show off to your friends to explain to them the graphically difference between the PS4 and other consoles.
There is an over-whelming sense of loneliness that makes this game one of a kind. It feels like you’re walking into a crime scene, trying to piece together who the true victim was. Before you know it things go sour and you don’t know who can trust. Its a mystery that doesn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. The adventure along the way is the important part.
In addition to the normal mode there is a hardcore mode that kills the player every time they run out of fuel. This mode is only for the most dedicated of gamers and should be played after you complete the normal campaign.
Overall I’d say there is a whole lot wrong with Super Motherload. The game will take you roughly 6-8 hours to complete the first time and is great for speed runs to see how the ending changes depending on your final end-game decision. Not only that but the four player local co-op is a blast, probably adding a dozen or so hours depending on how many friends you can get in front of your TV. Perhaps it won’t be long enough for some fans who won’t play it with friends but that shouldn’t hold you back from experiencing this indie gem. It can be a little repetitive but what great game doesn’t have a fantastic yet repetitious mechanic?
If you were on the fence about buying a second, third, or fourth Dual Shock 4 controller then get ready to leap off that fence. Super Motherload is the best local multiplayer game on PS4 currently and is one of the best launch titles available.
(PS4 version of Super Motherload provided by X-Gen Studios for this review.)
Super Motherload is possibly the best indie game available on PS4 at launch. Thankfully PC, PS3 and PS Vita players will be able to get in on the excavating action too. If you just got a PS4 and need a game to show the system off to your friends there isn't a better local multiplayer game available right now than this one.