1-800 SUPER review
iPhone App
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1-800 SUPER review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on October 12th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: SUPER DISAPPOINTING
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1-800 SUPER is a short narrative adventure about helping superheroes and villians over the phone.

Developer: Pangolin Park GmbH

Price: $ 2.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone XR

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

1-800 SUPER has a phenomenal concept. You play as the operator for a help line designed for superheroes (and villains), and you need to do your best to navigate these conversations to maintain a certain balance between good and evil. To boot, the game has some slick production values and some neat ideas for their original superhero cast. The only problem is, the game itself is a bit of a wet blanket, as it mostly fails to explore the possibility space of its setup.

Sidekick on speed dial

In 1-800 SUPER, you play as a new recruit who receives a phone outfitted to take calls and receive updates from a registry of superheroes. Your goal is simply to answer the phone when it rings and then direct whoever is on the other line in the way that seems the most appropriate given the situation.

The only caveat to this is that there is some semblance of balance you need to maintain between good and evil doers. Much like a game like Reigns, you can't just back the good guys all the way to the end, as that could result in creating a society governed by a cabal of caped crusaders.

Please hold

On top of managing this good vs. evil meter, 1-800 SUPER has its own overarching story, which unfolds primarily through conversations with Ears, an aging hero who makes up for his lack of sight with his superhearing skills. He's looking to retire, but has one last mystery to solve with your help.

Outside of these story calls, you'll talk with individuals that can slip between dreams, manipulate the weather, and even vigilantes who want to take the law into their own, non-powered hands. When not on one of these calls, there's not a whole lot to do in 1-800 SUPER, though. Your phone interface posts updates every once in a while, but most of the time I found myself navigating to the "meditation" app to skip to the next scene.

Comic book chaos

The writing, voice acting, and general story of 1-800 SUPER are all pretty well done and nothing repeats or feels too stitched together in a procedural way, giving the game a real sense of cohesion. Things fall apart with 1-800 SUPER around its meter system, downtime, and overall pacing though, making most of the game feel confusing and tedious.

The most confounding part of these problems is the meter system, which mostly feels shoehorned into the game to make it more game-like. 1-800 SUPER isn't terribly long, so managing the meter isn't particularly difficult, but it does behave oddly in response to some of your conversations. As an example, at one point I told a hero to recruit a partner to take down an evil villain and got evil points in response. Even more confusingly, there was also a point where I was forced to choose whether an evil character kills someone or ruins their life, and in choosing to just kill them I got hero points.

Overall, I don't really understand what the logic of this system is or if it even really matters. With it, it just made each conversation a guessing game but didn't really add much. Without it, I would have had a much better time just enjoying the narrative and making choices based on what I wanted to see rather than what I thought I needed to say. Meter aside, the game is also rather short and ends pretty abruptly, which further diminishes t1-800 SUPER's ability to adequately explore the potential of its premise.

The bottom line

1-800 SUPER should have probably avoided being a Reigns-like. This short narrative adventure doesn't need additional hooks or systems to make it compelling, it just needs more story to tell. Hopefully Pangolin Park is able to take a second crack at this fantastic idea, or perhaps the game will inspire someone else to do it justice.

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