A sandbox puzzle title set in a literal sandbox? That’s right, science has finally gone too far. Supraland, the 2018 indie darling, has found its way onto the Nintendo Switch, and packs with it a mighty dose of both charm and fun gameplay.
The story centers around two warring factions of red & blue plastic characters, all taking place within the walls of a backyard sandbox, and presumably from the imagination of a child. Despite its sandy nature, the world of Supraland is very colorful and loaded with memorable locales and puzzles, some of which are as simple as hitting a switch, whereas others require an extremely specific set of actions to complete. Along the way there are enemies to fight, collectibles to collect, and villagers ready to talk your ear clean off. Considering this game was developed mostly by one person, the world feels astoundingly alive and is just pleasant to explore. If you were itching for a solid dungeon crawler but too depressed to drag yourself through another dark and gray fantasy world, Supraland is a refreshing change of pace.
The controls you start with are pretty limited, and admittedly that does give the game a slower start. But, as the campaign unravels and you’re granted more abilities, the puzzles become that much more complex. It’s been compared in the past to Portal with its unique puzzle-based progression, but you also see elements of Zelda and Metroidvania titles in Supraland’s design theory. While following the campaign is a mostly linear path, the entirety of it is free to explore, and you’re rewarded for backtracking with certain areas previously inaccessible without a particular move or item.
Admittedly, while some aspects of the game are bursting at the seams with personality, others are lacking in imagination. The dialog you encounter when talking with villagers can be downright hilarious at times, and tongue-in-cheek pop culture references are hidden all over the game’s world. On the opposite side of the coin, there’s only a handful of different enemy types and unfortunately none of them are much to write home about. And while I was having a lot more fun once I progressed further and gained more abilities, that first chunk of the campaign can be a bit of a grind, as you’re mostly interacting with an in-world item shop to unlock your first few items and upgrades. A more streamlined tutorial sequence would have been a bit more immersion-breaking, but I think it could’ve gone long way in the overall pacing of the story.
This sort of small-scale adventure is something we’ve really only seen explored by the likes of Chibi-Robo and Pikmin in the past, but Supraland easily holds its own alongside those Nintendo franchises. It’s one of those cases where my biggest critique is that I enjoyed the concept and atmosphere so much, the only thing I wanted was more to do in that world. In the summer of 2020 a sequel was successfully crowdfunded, so the Switch port makes for an excellent chance to revisit this 2018 sleeper hit.
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
The rough edges are there, but they’re for the most part very easy to ignore. Not only because this was a passion project from a single developer, but because the charming world and bright visuals make for a fun experience whether you’re new to the genre or a seasoned veteran.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.