Superola Champion Edition review

A couple of months ago Disney+ subscribers were treated to a reboot of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. It managed to gain coverage on gaming sites thanks to a cameo appearance of ‘Ugly Sonic’ – one of many ‘homages’ to classic or forgotten characters. The producers snuck in so many references and in-jokes that multiple viewings were required to spot them all.

This side-scrolling auto-runner is the video game equivalent, filled with references to numerous retro classics. It’s fair to say the Spanish developers have a fondness for the SEGA Master System in particular, with various familiar 8-bit faces popping up. Even the game’s name is a reference to Street Fighter II, the car destroying mini-game from which is parodied here. It isn’t the only 16-bit game parodied either, with the world map resembling that from Super Mario World.

Appropriate, considering Superola Champion Edition has a retro feel – ignoring the fact that auto-runners weren’t really a thing in the ‘90s, unless pesky minecart stages count. It’s a two-button affair in which you must jump and laser-blast your way through short stages, leaping over enemies and hazards. Tapping jump performs a small leap; holding it makes our llama lead – out to stop an army of sentient hotdogs – jump higher and further. With no checkpoints and a one-hit death system, you’ll need to quickly learn how time jumps perfectly.

Levels aren’t randomised, thankfully, giving chance to learn layouts. Occasionally we ‘cheesed’ our way to victory, beating a stage after just one or two attempts, but this was a rarity – most are intended to catch you off guard, with hazards coming thick and fast.

Superola the llama isn’t defenseless against the hordes of familiar-looking monsters. Collectable burgers act as both ammo and in-game currency, used to buy single-use power-ups and score multipliers. The only thing that beats a hotdog is a burger, right? A single burger will produce a searing laser beam that lasts around 5 seconds, giving a new definition to ‘burning off’ food. The temptation is there to blitz through your stockade of burgers, making progression easier, but it comes at the cost of not being able to buy consumables to help with harder stages. This encourages you to rely on finely tuned platforming skills, instead of lazily searing everything to death.

Variety comes from a few different areas, mixing things up with NES-era Super Mario Bros. style swimming stages and somewhat speedier minecart rides. The faster-paced stages are where things become tricky, often to the point of frustration. Comical “combat” stages feature too and play like Alex Kidd in Miracle World‘s rock-paper-scissors battles, only adding ‘Spock’ and ‘lizard’ into the mix. Spock beats rock, and as for lizard, well…it isn’t very clear. This is a game more concerned about making you chuckle instead of teaching its basics, hoping you’ll figure it out for yourself.

Presentation is a step-up from similar games within the £5 price point. It has internet meme-filled cut-scenes that are well-drawn, endurance and multiplayer modes, and a choice of retro and modern visuals – with the former having additional CRT filters. The retro and modern visuals are completely re-drawn; it isn’t simply the work of a blurring filter. Considering the vast number of stages and enemy types, it’s a feature that’s certainly unexpected.

A bonus mini-game has been thrown in too – Alpaca’s Redemption was originally a game jam project, taking the form of a single-screen precision platformer where you must forgo a skill (dash, jump, hook shot, etc) at the end of each stage, handicapping your own abilities. It’s a nice freebie, obviously being too short to release as a standalone title, and it fits in well with the main game’s focus on precision (and cutesy camelids.)

Superola Champion Edition is a game limited in what it can offer. It is, after all, merely a two-button auto-runner based solely on timing and rote memorisation. But when one of the things it provides is a few cheap laughs, mostly at the expense of rejected ‘80s and ‘90s gaming icons, we can’t grumble too much. Challenging, and good for a giggle – especially if you grew up with a SEGA Master System.

Superola Champion Edition is developed by Undercoders and published by JanduSoft. Out July 14th on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.