Although only launched on Steam back in November 2017, and being the work of a three-man team of students from Berlin, Superflight has leapt to the very highest rankings on steam, being “Overwhelmingly Positive”, and garnering almost 3000 positive reviews.
For an indie game which costs less than the price of a grande hazelnut latte at your favourite high-street coffee vendor, and taking up less than 150 megs of hard drive, what is it about Superflight that has everyone raving?
I don’t think I could express it any better than one of the game’s developers, who says:
Our goal with this game is to give players a simple but unique experience that captures the incredible feeling of speed and risk we know from GoPro-wingsuit-videos and combines it with a sense of discovery and “what will that next world look like?”.
Quite what made the first person strap a camera to their head and impersonate a flying squirrel is beyond me, but these adrenalin-fuelled go-pro videos are all over Youtube.
If you haven’t seen one, then just type in “wing-suit” into your favourite video streaming platform and turn down your speakers, because you’re invariably going to be blasted by Dubstep while people shuffle about looking nervous in their PJs and bike helmets on mountaintops…
Then, as the grungy drop hits it gets all wubwub and they leap, transforming into graceful flying squirrels made of flapping canvas, performing amazing feats of near-death flying. You’ll then be treated to eyewatering displays of almost-suicide before the fade-out where they open the parachute and tell everyone how they totally didn’t wet themselves.
Now, we both know it’s only a matter of time before someone decorates the eastern face of the Matterhorn a subtle shade of spleen, but until then you’re quite welcome to go purchase a pair of the baggy flying suits and throw yourself off whatever tall structure you like (OK, slight exaggeration).
However, if you’re like me and have a sense of self-preservation which hovers closer to “sane” than “Evel Kneivel“, using gravity to convert oneself into a Rorschach inkblot is probably low on your agenda, but we’re both curious about how it feels, right? So, in steps the beautiful and wonderful world of Superflight, and boy does it do a beautiful job.
How to fall off a mountain and not die…
Douglas Adams once said that
…the knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
Never has this been more true than here. Superflight throws you at a never ending series of procedurally generated “mountains” (really complex objects) which float free in space. Your job is to miss, but only just.
I’m just gonna call these mountains “bergs“, because “mountain” implies ‘pointy at the top, fat at the bottom bit on the ground” and yet “complex procedurally generated constructive-solid-geometry collections of objects floating in free space” is more accurate but tends to push the word count up… So, berg it is…
Built from shaped blocks, transformed, flipped, rotated and populated with flora by a procedural algorithm, each of the bergs you fly through is completely unique in its layout, colouring and structure. The colour scheme, weather and layout all ensure that each berg has unique tunnels, canyons and ledges for you to discover.
As you reach the ‘bottom’, rather than a meeting a sudden violent end, you find that the berg is actually floating in space… As you plummet past it, it vanishes into the mist above you, mist enveloping you, to find yourself atop a new one. Generation time for each berg is minuscule, and that brief moment of expectation between bergs is delicious.
Having said all that, you will smack into the berg. A lot. An awful lot. There are achievements for dying a lot, as with most games, but unlike those others where you have to deliberately kill yourself to earn them, in Superflight you’ll be earning them as a matter of course. I think I passed the 300 deaths mark about 3 hours in, and I wasn’t even trying to be suicidal.
Stay close, but not too close
While you can happily play Superflight by keeping your distance and admiring the wonderful geometry and colours, it’s when you edge closer, and start to take riskier moves that you start to accrue “points”, the aim of the game.
You’re free to accumulate the points as quickly or slowly as you like. There’s no time limit, and no level “end”, you’re free to continue flying for as long as you can still feel your thumbs and haven’t yet cannon-balled into anything.
If you want to get high scores in short times or go for the all-important Steam Achievements, then you’re going to have to get closer, a lot closer.
There are three “proximity” achievements which you can earn by being a real daredevil: Awesome, So Close and Godlike. For the latter two you must be “threading the needle”; for Godlike, the gap will need to be so small you’d better be holding your breath and thinking very thin thoughts to fit through!
I really wished a few times there was a first-person view; in tight spaces it can be tricky to align your guy with the gap he needs to fit through. Perhaps when the walls get very close, the game could ‘cut’ to first-person (as an option)?
I’m currently sitting at #1138 (heh, look at me George Lucas!), in the global rankings… But you need over 360k to get on the steam leaderboard, which is gonna take a loooong time, as I prefer to take wider turns and do fewer insane stunts! The top slots are taken by people who’ve hacked their scores, sadly, so it’s impossible to get into the top, say, 25, until that’s fixed.
The worlds are so beautiful, and skimming past them is so photogenic, a pausable cinematic camera, as so many other “pretty” games are starting to incorporate would be a nice feature. I know it’s a vanity thing, but it would be quite nice.
You don’t need to be a monk to Zen…
All that score chasing can be a little stressful, detracting from the more relaxing experience of plummeting at terminal velocity past jagged rocks… So I made myself a Jasmine tea, adopted the lotus position, turned on the cordless game-pad, dropped into a beanbag, and launched the game’s “Zen Mode”.
It was hard to get out of the habit of trying to hot-dog for points, but once I did I found the flying experience relaxing, and enjoyed the sense of adventure. I wasn’t so sure it was Zen-like though. To test this, I tried to create Haiku while skimming boulders, but this is as far as I got:
Oh Beautiful Berg
All cliffs, ledges and tunnels,
textured motion blur.
So, I won’t claim it will give anyone a Karmic experience, but it’s different…
So, basically there’s only one thing to do in Superflight: skim the bergs to find your own way to increase score.
Enjoying this ‘lightness’, the developers gleefully proclaim the list of things not in it on their Steam page.
This works to the game’s advantage at this price point, but I imagine there are people who might want more out of the game, such as a variety of wing-suits, a hang-glider, or a powered-flight option. Maybe in a sequel?
Let your mind fly free…
The textures are all blocky-multi-coloured patterns which are very reminiscent of 70s sci-fi art. there’s a wonderful sense of scale when you’re beneath these huge bergs, and above you the surface looks like the textured hull of a decaying space ship. (See the works of Chris Foss for example)
Some of the randomly generated levels feel more like a man-made structure that has decayed over time, or built long ago to non-human aesthetics.
Skimming through square holes, it’s easy to let your mind fill in the missing ‘pieces’ of the structure, thinking “perhaps this was a huge bulkhead”, or “that looks like a mayan temple”. Exploration can be a kind of emergent fun for some. For this reason, I’ve taken to using the game’s “save map” feature.
You can also create your own worlds by making up your own random seed. Here are some good ones I’ve made (capitalisation is important):
- Sim City (looks like a Mayan city on top of a mountain)
- -1744097856 (let your imagination run wild!)
Superflight is a wonderful wing-suit score-chaser over a never-ending series of unique and fascinating floating ‘mountains’ in the air. With minimalist sounds and buffeting gusts, the game does all it can to place you in the zone.you’ll certainly get that feeling of rushing headlong down a mountainside like the videos on Youtube.
The visuals are gorgeous, with beautiful use of bloom and blur. Despite a blocky ‘flier’, the controls feel spot-on, and no matter whether you’re flying with keys, joystick or gamepad, the flight dynamics take only a few minutes to get the hang of and not much longer to master.
At the moment the game is just £2.09 ($2.99), and can provide (theoretically) billions of hours of gameplay before you’ll see the same berg twice. In reality, you’ll be able to start getting higher on the scoreboards within a few hours, and all the achievements an hour or so after that.
The game sells itself as being basic and simple and on that basis it hits every note. It is, however, sorely missing a VR mode which would seal the deal for many. It could probably benefit from a few extra score-pickups or multiplier enhancers dotted about to increase the choices of things to do on each berg.
I’m not sure about the game’s replay value as of yet, so I’ll say your £2 will certainly net you around 3 to 4 hours of adrenaline-fuelled, but oddly relaxing game-play, perhaps 5 or more if you’re chasing the really top-most scores on the scoreboard and getting 100% completion.
If you like the flying experience, and want to come back to it, then any hours after that are a bonus.
Considering this is a student project, designed, coded and tested by german graduates, this is a superb first outing for the Superflight team. If you’d like to learn more, or play Superflight, you can find more details here: