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Superfluous Returnz review

Superfluous Returnz review

More than enough good times in this comedic point-and-click superhero spoof adventure

Say you’re Bruce Wayne, a billionaire living in a grand mansion overlooking grim, crime-riddled Gotham, and you feel the superhero call, that bone-deep itch to don cape and spandex and rid the city of evil-doers and ne'er-do-wells. It’s a tough, dangerous life choice, but it’s never going to be dull and you look fabulous in black. Now imagine that mansion is a castle on a hill overlooking a quiet, bucolic European town where nothing much ever happens. Just how do you go about heroing in a place like that? Wouldn't you feel a little… superfluous? Well, Superfluous Returnz, by French coder-cartoonist Simon “Gee” Giraudot, is the tale of just such a “hero” and his valiant struggle to solve the town's most audacious crime in years: the theft of a few apples. Gently amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, his bumbling efforts (peppered with wry asides about village life and the idle rich) sow ever more chaos in the rural sunshine. The puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag, requiring logical leaps and more than a little suspension of disbelief in places, but when it's all wrapped in such breezy good-natured silliness, it's hard not to just smile and go with it.

Harpagon Lonion is rich. Exceedingly, absurdly, disgustingly rich. And, given that he's rattling around in an enormous chateau in the sleepy French village of Fochougny, he’s also seriously bored. At least, I'm hoping that's why he's taken to a life of caped vigilantism as … (dah-da-dah!) Superfluous, aka the Fuchsia Knight! Yes, he really does wear his underpants on the outside, and no, his secret identity isn't fooling anyone, even with the mask. Accompanied by his long-suffering assistant (and definitely not sidekick, despite his best efforts) Sophie, he fights crime and nurses a grudge against his teenage nemesis, Superficial (or Mathéo, to his mother). And he'll get right on that apple theft just as soon as Sophie can extricate him from the Flouscave, where he's (ahem) accidentally trapped himself.

As you'll probably have gathered by now, Superfluous Returnz is not the most serious or brooding of superhero tales. There are no moody night shots of moonlit cities sparkling in the rain. Instead you're pottering around quaint, leafy streets in the summer sun, investigating the lowest of low-stakes heists. Superfluous himself veers between adorably gormless idiot and entitled rich guy, while you can often feel Sophie's eyes rolling as she tries vainly to keep him out of trouble. The residents of Fochougny, meanwhile, bear his antics with a mix of amusement and weary resignation.

Gee's experience as a cartoonist really shows in the crisp, colourful artwork. Backed by a paperlike texture, the lines are clean but not too neat, with a sketched look that's more comic than comic book. The proportions are broadly accurate, but this loose, friendly feel adds personality and energy, and the world is bright and cheerful. That's especially true of Superfluous himself, whose baggy pink-and-purple costume is worlds away from the dark efficiency of Batman's. Some areas are also brought to life with trees that sway in the wind, grass that rustles and windmills that spin. Fochougny is a small but diverse place, ranging from a picturesque local farm to a cosy local bar, and from Harpagon's castle to a nearby housing estate. It’s so small, in fact, that everywhere’s accessible from the town square, making it impossible to get lost.

The music is, for the most part, similarly bouncy and fun, veering from honky tonk piano to a spirited electronic organ piece that I'd describe as fairground bluegrass. It's too energetic to fade into the background, but fortunately it's also too varied to overstay its welcome, and the occasional quieter, tenser moments help mix things up a little. There's no voice acting, so each character's comments appear as colour-coordinated text above their heads. You can tell it's been translated from French, with (I swear) a few extra linguistic oddities added in on purpose, such as Superfluous commenting that the abject failure to keep his secret identity actually secret is “really burning my toast”. Regardless, the end results are clear and gently charming.

The interface is an interesting combination of ancient and modern. Clicking on a hotspot brings up a four-verb wheel that mixes standard options such as "Look" and "Talk" with more specific ones like "Pour on," "Rummage in," or "Fiddle with" depending on context. It never settles for anything as mundane as "Use," and feels like an evolution of the old LucasArts verb palettes. Clicking on items in the auto-hiding inventory at the bottom of the screen likewise brings up verb wheels with a merry assortment of possibilities, and you don't just click and drag objects into the scene to use them. Instead you first select your verb of choice from that object’s possibilities and then click on the right hotspot. In theory, this might make you think a bit harder about what you're doing, but in practice there's hardly ever more than one option that makes sense. And clicking hotspots you can apply objects to always brings up "Inventory" as one of the verbs, enabling you to pick an item directly, sidestepping the issue. Finally, you have an in-game cellphone that does multiple duty as a settings and save game menu, hint system, and (occasionally) actual game object. It does so much, in fact, that I forgot you could use it to solve puzzles for an embarrassingly long time!

Couch gamers (and Steam Deck fans) should also have a good time here, as Superfluous Returnz has unusually strong controller support. Plug in a gamepad and it switches from point-and-click to tank controls, with the verb wheel being mapped to the face buttons and the D-pad switching between hotspots.

Interestingly, although you do spend more time playing as Superfluous, you switch to Sophie when he's busy distracting one of the other characters or otherwise indisposed, which turns out to be quite often. The puzzles are mostly inventory-based, with a few password challenges and a simple maze thrown in for good measure. These are generally fair, but do occasionally stretch credibility to the breaking point and sprinkle in just a touch of moon logic. For example, kicking random objects in the hope that something useful will fall off turns out to be a surprisingly helpful strategy. And apparently the bar patrons are so drunk that they can't tell the difference between galloping horses and a placidly grazing donkey. On the other hand, you’ll also find yourself participating in the world’s slowest (and most rural) vehicle chase, helping an earth-shatteringly bad singer try karaoke, and replicating Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky, punk?" scene with an apple cannon, so it’s hard to feel grumpy for long.

If you do get stuck, there are not one but two hint systems to keep you on track. Okay, one and a half. Talk to Sophie and, like any good assistant, she'll remind you of what you're trying to do. Or, if there are several tasks you could tackle, the best one to start with. If you need a nudge as to how to actually do it, though, you'll need to whip out your in-game cellphone and call the hint line. These clues start fairly gently, then become increasingly blatant and eventually just give you the answer, guaranteeing you won’t be totally stumped.

Even for such a fluffy comic adventure, Superfluous Returnz is a bit on the short side. Spread over three main acts, bookended by a prologue and epilogue, there are three to five hours of playtime here, at least the first time around. However, a good chunk of that is taken up figuring things out; on my second playthrough, the linear story clocked in at more like an hour and a half and didn’t really add anything to the experience aside from bagging a few quirky achievements. (There's even an achievement for speed-running it in 20 minutes, though you'd have to take a lot of shortcuts to get it done that fast!) Given that this is a one-man project, that’s understandable, but I could have done with a few more twists and turns. Or, indeed, any twists at all: the perpetrator is fairly easy to guess from the off, even if it takes Superfluous a while to catch on.

Much of the humour comes from the confusion Superfluous causes wherever he goes. Even the farmer who lost the apples can't take him seriously, and literally nobody's fooled by his disguise. And, naturally, he winds up doing far more damage than the apple thief ever did, leading to a barbed exchange with the authorities when it’s all over. Rounding out the cast is the wryly sardonic policeman who claims to be grimly holding on despite his overwhelming caseload, the drunken mayor who can sober up instantly when duty calls, and a tramp who moonlights as a professor of computational geometry (or possibly the other way round). Superfluous's only actual superpower is being rich, but fortunately for him that seems to be enough to protect him from all but the most laser-focused eye-roll.

Final Verdict

In the end, Superfluous Returnz is an amiable if slight experience that’s over a bit too soon. Its relaxed country atmosphere and amusingly bemused characters lend it a lighthearted charm that goes down as easily as the local cider, aided by the delightful cartoon graphics and jaunty music. Its easy-going escapades may not linger for long in the memory, and the solutions to one or two of the puzzles are a tad unbelievable, but it makes for a merry diversion that’s easy to recommend if you’re not feeling super serious.

Hot take


Superfluous Returnz isn’t superfluous at all, as its not-so-super hero's bumbling (and occasionally credibility-defying) antics offer an all-too-brief breath of fresh country air.


  • Lovely, colourful cartoon graphics and jaunty soundtrack
  • Adorable rural setting and entertainingly eccentric characters
  • Consistently amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny


  • A bit short and predictable, even for a comic caper
  • A few puzzles stretch credulity to the breaking point

Peter played Superfluous Returnz on PC using a review code provided by the game's publisher.


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