Super Motherload review for PS4, PS3

Platform: PS4
Also On: PS3
Publisher: XGen Studios
Developer: XGen Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

How’s this for irony? Super Motherload is a game that’s all about digging, yet at the same time, it’s one of the shallowest experiences you’re ever likely to come across. It leaves you with a great first impression, but scratch beneath its beautiful surface and you’re left with pretty much nothing.

Which is to say: it looks and sounds very nice. The game’s art style is gorgeous, a neat mixture of Soviet propaganda and Atari 2600 rendered through the power of PlayStation 4. From the intro screen to the character portraits to your little digging machine, everything looks great. On top of that, the sound is phenomenal. It does a great job of building up a spooky, tense atmosphere even when there’s not a whole lot going on.

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Unfortunately, that describes most of the game. See, when you get right down to it, Super Motherload is all about digging. And digging and digging and digging.

I mean that literally. For six or seven hours, you just dig — straight down, through soil and rocks, through minerals and lava, through skeletons and pick-ups and everything else. Occasionally, you’ll pause to refuel, or repair your hull, or sell off all the minerals you’ve obtained so that you can upgrade your drill bits. These pauses, however, are strictly in the service of allowing you to dig deeper, so that you can get more minerals, so that you can get more money, so that you can upgrade your ship more, so that you can — you guessed it — keep on digging. And digging and digging and digging.

Occasionally, you’ll get dispatches from trapped miners or space colonists or scientists or your onboard computer. Don’t be fooled by these: they may seem like the vestiges of a story, but they’re not going to change anything that you’re expected to do — which, again, is to just keep digging. And digging and digging and digging.

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Eventually, you reach a point at which you can no longer dig, and you’re expected to get back to the planet’s surface as quickly as possible, for reasons I won’t spoil here. I will say, however, that this is the key part of the Super Motherload’s boss fight. As you can tell, Super Motherload is not a particularly exciting game, unless you have a real passion for digging. And digging and digging and digging.

I’m well aware, of course, that for some people, the prospect of terraforming in games is highly exciting. And among people who love games like Terraria and Minecraft fans, I’m sure there’s got to be a subset of fans who’ve always wished that they could just do away with those pesky construction and creation bits and just focused on the digging. And if you’re one such person, Super Motherload is here to meet your strange, slightly incomprehensible desires.

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But if you’re not, and the prospect of simply digging (and digging and digging and digging) sounds like the most boring thing imaginable, this is one PS4 launch title you can probably just skip.

Grade: C