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Supermarket Times embodies a unique and quiet bovril-fueled brand of anarchy

Care for a can of “Savage man child” energy drink?

A checkout in Supermarket Times
Image credit: Rabbit Hole Games

I once went back to a gathering after a friend-of-a-friend’s metal gig that I distinctly remember not because of either the party or the show, but because we drunkenly went to a big Tesco afterwards to get snacks. I also distinctly remember making a not-completely serious but also somewhat true statement at the party about how that Tesco trip was the most fun I’d had in months, after which one of the metal men sneered at me. I felt self conscious at the time, but I’ve since grown comfortable enough with myself to realise that the metal man was a joyless fool, and going to big supermarkets is at least as fun as going to average metal gigs. There is nothing a drop D power chord can evoke in me that compares to the feeling of blurrily espying a chocolate trifle in the reduced to clear section. So I wish to bring your attention to Supermarket Times.

Supermarket Times is an adventure game about a normal supermarket, which is to say it is about a temple of joy stuffed with previously-unknown but suddenly essential shit trinkets, down every aisle of which shuffles a notable weirdo. None of these weirdos are weirder than you, however: an unnamed human who goes to the supermarket purely to talk to every stranger there, steal a gun, buy ciggies for some teenagers, boot a rat to death, then spend thousands of pounds on Ray Bans and lentils. Game-wise, there’s a touch of Virtual Springfield about it. You find objects and complete a shopping list of tasks, all while indulging in some British high street anthropology (distinct from High Street Bear Grylls-ing, which is where you inexplicably drink your own piss while in easy walking distance of a cold Rubicon).

The game is also sometimes very funny in that sort of painfully British post punk way. And by ‘post punk’, I don’t mean ‘punk but more experimental’ I mean ‘used to snort a lot of speed but then got really into Bovril and put on some waist fluff, but still occasionally gets over-excited when the Buzzcocks comes on the radio and then has to have a little lie down.’ It’s maybe a bit like Viz but less crass and more interestingly drawn. It’s maybe also a bit like Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives but less overtly political. I’m not really sure how to describe it because there isn’t really anything else like it, and that’s honestly quite a good problem to have. Sometimes, the game is not funny at all, and that’s ok. It’s confident in this unfunniness, and I appreciate it.

Toilet roll and magazines in Supermarket Times
Image credit: Rabbit Hole Games

As is the way of such places, the supermarket contains many, many products, and each of them has a little voiceover description when you click on it. What do you fancy? Some ‘iPhone scroll lentils’, perhaps? (“Go on Instagram, while you’re having a lentil curry. Absolutely belter.”) A Yorke bar? (“Solid bricks. Gorgeous solid bricks of chocolate. Famously not for women.”) Perhaps a multivitamin whisky? (“more vitamins than if you eat a banana, a pear, a peach and a plum combined.”) Sometimes, you find a gremlin in the freezer. Sometimes, you find an entire shop that only sells eagles. Sometimes you help out the cleaner by having a sniper-wee and get an achievement for it.

So, I don’t cover small, strange games I don’t like. And this is criticism I’d make of like, myself as a person too, so I do it with love and understanding. But I do find that a lot of zine-type indie projects and what have you possess, alongside whatever earnestness and iconoclasms and creativity, an aching desire for coolness. But I genuinely believe Supermarket Times has absolutely no interest in being cool - in the sense of being clued into something vital and somewhat secret, or just being chic or dangerous - in any way. It is simple, earnest, oddball art, and it made me laugh a lot, even when I was shaking my head in a “why have you done this” kind of way. It is, as the kids say, how I’m tryna be. I won’t recommend it, because it doesn’t need that. You’ll like it when you see it, or you won’t. You can find it on Steam here.

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