Throughout recorded history, inventive sorts have put their hands to the task of blending two seemingly opposite things together in the hope of creating an unexpected and enjoyable mash-up. The Muppets performing Shakespeare and sausage pork with Gummy bears are two prime examples that come to mind. Sometimes that comingling turns out great. Sometimes, not so much.
SuperMash, a single-player mini-game creator just released for the Nintendo Switch (and previously available on other platforms), is the video game version of that creative pursuit. But will it stimulate your senses or leave you wanting to metaphorically disinfect your tongue?
Story-wise, the game begins with the simple premise of a young woman named Jume who’s just received an eviction notice on her struggling video game shop. Fortunately, her brother, Tomo, is willing to help out. And even more fortunately, Tomo just happens to get his hands on a cool prototype game console that’s designed to blend the program bits of different video game genres, cranking out something kitschy and fresh. That might just be the sort of stuff that Jume’s customers are looking for.
The real draw of SuperMash, however,isn’t the game’s short-lived storyline, but your ability to play the mash-up games that Tomo’s special game-fusing device stitches together. You get to choose two genres from a list of six possibilities—stealth, shoot-’em-up, JRPG, side-scrolling platformer, action-adventure and Metroidvania—and then let SuperMash procedurally generate a unique mini-game on the spot.
The game mash-ups all start with a different title as well as a randomly generated story, and then they toss you into a retro-feeling adventure that can last up to about 10 minutes. Some have a ticking-clock time limit, some have specific goals for victory, and some have waves of enemies to defeat. Some are really hard, and some are very easy. Some can be funny, some head-scratchingly odd. When you play and win the games, you also earn Dev Cards that you can use to cosmetically tweak future fusions with specific characters, weapons, music, gameplay and other elements of your choosing.
If you come up with a mash-up that you’re really loving, you can also save it to play as often as you’d like. And you can share a MASH code with a friend, so they can give your favorite JRPG/platformer concoction a try, too.
Of course, if you’re wondering if all the games are complete winners, the answer is no. Don’t be expecting The Adventures of Zelda or a Mario Cart game to randomly pop up here. These are more rudimentary game builds with a 2D retro feel. And the randomly generated aspect of these games is very random at times: You might jump from platform to platform with little airplanes or look for goal-ending characters that never show up, for instance. Thus, gameplay can be equally odd and frustrating at any given moment.
But there’s a positive side to all that which some young players (and their parents) will really enjoy. The fact that the games are short gives you the chance to get through the meh stuff and move through to a fun variety of contests with some unexpected twists.
And the random nature of things here can be quirky and smile-worthy. There’s some mild violence in some of the shoot-’em-up or sword-swinging play, but even if your elf is sporting a machine gun or your biplane is spitting fireballs, the old-school pixelated visuals are always mess free.
Let’s face it, having endless possibilities can be a tonic for boredom. And even a confusing, sometimes frustrating or flat-out bad game can still be oddly fun. SuperMash definitely covers all those bases. I’d even call it better than a pickle and peanut butter on rye.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.