Yeah, I don’t know why I’m doing this either.
I hate goats. I don’t know what it is about them, but their existence is like eating glass. Maybe it was something to do with Goat Simulator; which was about as funny as finding out you have ravenous ass parasites. That’s probably part of why I looked at Supermarket Shriek with contempt.
This is the sophomore title from Northern Irish studio Billy Goat Entertainment, a studio formerly dabbling in 3D animation, before releasing Her Majesty’s SPIFFING in 2016. A small satirical title focusing on the old LucasArt days of point ‘n’ click adventures, I never played it for fear of losing my minds at the usual LucasArt solutions. However, it has a 74 on Metacritic, so it’s objectively good, unless this is the week Metacritic doesn’t matter because a new game is threatening to overtake Ocarina of Time or something.
You play as a man, who we’ll name Derek. Derek is a man who is waiting to return home, but then he sees a shopping trolley with a goat in it barreling towards him at lethal speed. Normally, this kind of clash would kill a man immediately, but the goat, who we’ll name Acorah, is a magic goat, and it only results in Derek occupying the trolley with the goat. They both scream at high pitches to each other, and with this, signifies a life-long bond that will take them to every retail chain in the UK and beyond.
Since the average age of a gamer is now 5 due to the invention of Fortnite, chances are that you won’t know that Supermarket Shriek is based on an old game show called “Supermarket Sweep”. The most famous version is the UK version, hosted by the late great Dale Winton, it’s naturally the one that Billy Goat are basing Supermarket Shriek off. To be honest, despite the obvious stupidity of a man and a goat riding in a shopping kart together and using their decibel-limited screams to push the kart around, it’s actually quite a faithful rendition of the cult hit game show.
No, seriously, they got the feel of the show down really well. It’s certainly not the same 90’s fluorescent colored show starring families from Milton Keynes looking to grab eighty quid’s worth of chicken dippers, but it still feels like an actual game show, for the most part. I daresay that this is one Dale Winton away from being on ITV, but I’m going off track, how does the game work? The gist is that there are various shops in the streets of Britain, and we’re talking High Street variety. Tesco, M&S, Online Warehouse, Arcade houses, Fish ‘n’ Chips shops, Vape stor– You get the point. Obviously, they’re not named after the big stores specifically, but they’ve got enough the logo aesthetic and play on words for you to connect the dots.
Derek and Acorah will be challenged to one of four different challenges. They could be a straight-up obstacle course, filled with all types of “Total Wipeout” and “Takeshi’s Castle”-esque obstacles and hazards, or collecting items on a shopping list, reminiscent of the actual show. You make Derek scream and turn left with the left trigger, you make Acorah scream and turn right with the right trigger, and when both are pressed down, you push forward at greet speed.
There’s no other actual controls aside from that, and it’s more of a game regarding physics more than anything. Think of it as Trials, but in a 3D playground that’s full of suburban things that can kill you. The goal is always to be as speedy as possible, and the level design of Supermarket Shriek is unbelievably water-tight. Some of the levels presented, like “P&S”, “360 Arcade”, and “Offline Warehouse” really do show off just how smart and free-flowing Billy Goat can make this utterly daft concept.
Out of all the game modes (Obstacle Course, Shopping List, Races, and Canned Carnage, a mode where you destroy towers of baked beans), Shopping Lists are easily the most gratifying to play. They’re giant shops with so many branching paths to reach the groceries on your shopping list, and finding the optimal path in order to obtain that super-secret 4-star rating is a sublime feeling.
For the first four worlds, Supermarket Shriek achieves an immense fun factor, and has the level design to match. They never take too long, restarts don’t get in the way, and the challenge of trying to make Derek and Acorah squeal through the markets unscathed was both intense and a joy.
The best levels in the game were easily the ones involving microphones. Get your trolley within a certain distance, and the screams of Derek and Acorah will activate switches or walls which will move out of the way, so long as you keep screaming, or not screaming. It was a mechanic used prominently from World 3 onwards, and right up until the end, it kept you thinking on your feet at all times about how you should approach them. Will they clear a new path so long as you keep screaming? Or will they simply lead you to a grisly death at the hands of gears and cogs?
The secret levels were also a joy to play. They’re what you’ve come to expect from secret levels in video games; Parodies of other famous games, and in this instance, you’ve got stuff like the bonus stage of Sonic The Hedgehog 2, SuperHOT’s mechanic in a relatively short level, and a stealthy run-through past lethal saw-equipped Roomba’s in a tribute to Metal Gear Solid. Executed well and hidden perfectly enough in the overworld for them to be considered a treat.
Then the game gets hard. Hazards become more frequent, it becomes less about finding optimal paths and more about simply surviving a one or two minute gauntlet of insanity. Death via drowning in baked beans, saw-blades, lasers, swinging pendulums, super-hot pipes– They make sense, and are implemented in smart ways revolving around timing, precision, brute force and speed… until you get to World 5, that is.
World 5, or rather the 5th Street, is where linearity takes over, and Billy Goat really start to take liberties on what constitutes as a one-hit kill. For example, lasers that burn the character alive? Fine. Boxing gloves with shit hit detection that will automatically knock your character out, no matter how soft the punch was? A little absurd, but whatever, we’ve seen worse. Slowly moving Air Hockey pucks? Slowly moving bowling balls? Are you pissing on my neck?
Y’know, for just one level in the entire game, “Blade Outrunner” did an unbelievably phenomenal job for making the entire game seem like it wasn’t worth it. In what universe would a slowly moving Air Hockey puck cause a trolley to cartwheel into the great unknown? Honestly, “Blade Outrunner” was such a shit-show of poor level design and bad mechanics, that it almost ruined the entirety of the street, for me, because it’s when you get stuck on a level where Supermarket Shriek’s problems show.
For one, there’s no Quick Restart, along with there being no mid-level checkpoints, and there’s a loading screen between failures. It’s not too devilishly long, about 4-5 seconds, but this kind of roadblock to retries are lethal to the pacing, especially when other things niggle you, like the sound design.
I know this is going to sound crazy, but a game where a man and a goat scream constantly has bad sound design. This really would’ve benefited from some sort of customization in the audio department, such as rally engine noises, or maybe clown honking, something persistent. However, the only customization present is in deciding what hat you want Derek or Acorah to wear, with Acorah only having one choice, even after 100% completion.
Even the music completely sucks. Not that you’d hear it underneath constant shouting, but my God, every genre of music used was such an inoffensive addition that sounded annoying when the screaming stopped. It’s like the Top Gear montages without Aphex Twin– Just boring, humdrum stuff.
That being said, none of these annoyances were complete opinion-changers. See, Supermarket Shriek was frustrating, but it was never downright broken or insulting about it. It’s not like, say, Verlet Swing, where the game is simple for the first 80 levels before going “SURPRISE! IF YOU AREN’T SPIDER-MAN BY NOW, YOU WON’T SURVIVE!”. Then it also isn’t like the recent Trials games, where it’s all about actual Trials Courses, as opposed to insane stupidity and impossible stunts over gorges.
The challenge was mostly consistent, fair, and showcased an unbelievably forgiving difficulty curve. It was such a natural progression of skill, that when the final level came around, it genuinely felt like a challenge that required me to use all of the skills I’d learned. As opposed to the “Inferno” way of doing it: “Here’s 4 tiny platforms you have to repeat bunny-hop off, and finally there’s a ramp that’s only vaguely possible to amateur if you use one certain bike. Also, if you breathe on a platform, you die. Good luck. Dick.”
My one main problem with Supermarket Shriek, is that there’s isn’t enough of it. Maybe this is an addiction talking, but each world consists of a meager 4-5 levels, along with there being 5 secret levels peppered around the overworld, but the final level introduces a few new ideas which we didn’t see before hand. Screaming on a pre-determined mine-cart rail track in order to move two other platforms that block lasers, while also simultaneously making sure the two blockers can’t conduct a rod of lightning that would kill you as well was fairly genius. Where was that in the base game?
After spending twelve hours screaming incoherently and sacrificing goats in blood rituals in order to go through levels effortlessly, I finished the journey with a strong smile and a bedroom that needs a serious deep clean. What few levels that disappoint are overshadowed by some truly brilliant level design, and a strong sense of victory from each one, and I pray to God it finds the success it needs in order to provide some DLC.
In the end, Supermarket Shriek was a genuinely pleasant surprise, and managed to do what Goat Simulator didn’t: Making these bastard animals seem funny. The premise was unique and executed perfectly, most of the levels were a delight to shout through, and it might be one of the best games released this year. Go play it, and pour one out for Dale Winton while you’re at it.
This Review of Supermarket Shriek was based upon the Xbox One version of the game.
One of the more enjoyable difficult-to-control platformer-esque games to be released in recent years, with a toilet humor that works, and a control scheme that's easy to learn, and hard to master.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.