Supermarket Shriek is a game about racing through a grocery store in a shopping cart, like a child unattended by a parent. It has a lot more in common with Supermarket Sweep than my "what can I get for $30 to feed me for the next two weeks" Trader Joe's trips. Your goal is sometimes different—maybe you're more focused on gathering goods to bump into your cart, or crashing through tall towers of cans of beans—but the speed at which you do it, and the mechanic that propels you there, is always the same.
It's all in the name really: you shriek. The screams are like the gas pedal of a car, accelerating the shopping cart the boy and goat are in, but each character holds their own power. By letting just one character scream, for instance, you're able to turn your shopping cart in a specific direction. The screams are let loose by the right or left bumper, but if you have more than one player alongside you, it gets more complicated. You can even play the game audibly with two microphones, where you both scream into separate mics (or excuse me, shriek) to get going.
Everything about Supermarket Shriek reminds me of another indie darling with a quirky edge: Overcooked. The character designs feel adjacent; the offbeat co-op is present; the silly activities and level design double down on it all. It's not an Overcooked clone, mind you, but it's indicative of the sort of game we're seeing more of in the wake of the Overcooked series' success: couch co-op games that want to really bring people together, and make us laugh quite a bit too. And maybe even hate the person we're playing with in the process.
Developer William Barr from the Billy Goat Entertainment team led me through my demo, coaching me kindly and even telling me about the secrets buried within, like making mini arcade games for the arcade cabinets in one level. We're in a crowded room, so I opt not to just scream into a microphone to control the shopping cart through my demo. (The people after me had no qualms about it though.)
I accidentally played Supermarket Shriek for awhile, assuming that everyone eating chicken wings around me at this Indie Evening event wasn't actually waiting to play. There are 32 levels in total, all playable with one person or in a co-op team. There's also an eight-player Party Mode, which is hard to imagine, to be honest. (I'm sure it's pure chaos.) After struggling a bit on one level that warranted patience—something I barely have—and eventually overcoming it, Barr lifted the controller and took me through a number of "secret" levels. Granted, they're not really that hidden, as they're even outlined in the press kit.
It's a feature that has become a trend among indie developers: inserting homages to one another's games. There are a number of parody levels in Supermarket Shriek, including a Superhot one. "We OK'd this with at least one Superhot developer," Barr tells me with a laugh. Upon completing the Superhot-themed level, the words "Super Market" appear in a large font, just like Superhot proper. (Well, with one key difference.) Others he shows me include a Metal Gear Solid one, which takes on the stylings of the VR Missions and even changes the UI to look closer to the Metal Gear games. Completing levels unlocks hats for your human, and if you're playing co-op, for the goat too.
Supermarket Shriek is aiming for release soon in the next few months, though Barr doesn't have a date yet. He tells me how Microsoft's unexpectedly been a huge supporter of the Supermarket Shriek team, which Barr jokes will snowball into a "Sean Murray situation" in reference to the various No Man's Sky's controversies from 2016; where expectations for Supermarket Shriek, despite big console backing, won't follow through.
Microsoft even helped fund a big live action trailer, which will most likely feature a real life person and a goat in a shopping cart being pushed around. Though there isn't a release set for it yet, it's likely it will be around the release of Supermarket Shriek proper.
Supermarket Shriek is the sort of game I found myself immediately getting lost in, so much so that I'm sure colleagues waiting for their turn on it abhorred me being an accidental demo hog. It's deceptively simple to control. It's perfectly challenging in the later levels, though never erring on the side of frustration. For co-op, it's easy to imagine two pals working together to push a shopping cart onward with a controller, or even with two microphones as they work to get themselves evicted by their landlord from yelling so much.
I imagine when it's out later this year, it won't be a No Man's Sky-level disappointment like Barr is jokingly paranoid about. I see it being the opposite, fulfilling that Overcooked-shaped hole in all our hearts, and potentially becoming a streaming hit with its shriek-based gameplay. Supermarket Shriek will be out later this year in 2019 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, and will launch on Xbox Game Pass too.