Super Crush KO is the latest game from Vertex Pop, makers of 2017’s dope side-scrolling arcade shooter Graceful Explosion Machine. Super Crush KO carries a lot of the same vibrant, frenetic seasoning in its fundamental gameplay design and presentation. It is a minimalist 2D brawler set in a colorful, heartwarming world. There’s a variety of mechanics that are easy to pick up but deep enough to get engrossed in, providing a lot of incentive to replay levels and max out high scores.
Watch the video above to see how the game plays or read the transcript below.
Super Crush KO starts off with a super fine alien, Ann, crashing through our main character Karen’s bedroom and stealing her adorable cat Chubbz, who apparently is “The Cutest Cat In The Universe.” The developers clearly haven’t met my own little poophead Ripley, but that’s okay.
Karen sets off to save her kidnapped cat from Ann by punching, kicking, and shooting through waves of robot enemies. The levels feel like Super Smash Bros. stages, with multiple layers of platforms that require lightning-fast reflexes to navigate. Each screen is a wide series of platforms, traps, and portals for you to dance around in while wrecking everything in sight.
Karen’s got some moves that would make Devil May Cry’s boy band jealous, like an air dash used to dodge and cancel out enemy attacks. There are four main attack moves: a “Twister Drill” that sends Karen through multiple enemies in a satisfying spiral and launches them in the air for a follow-up attack.
Karen’s “Upper Cut” slice is self-explanatory. It’s useful for immediately attacking enemies on platforms above you. The “Air Pop” is a dash in the air that can be used to group multiple enemies and launch them into the air for a few more hits or to help reach difficult ledges. Think Altered Beast but not terrible.
And last but not least, the “Ground Shake” is a Hulk-like ground smash that launches enemies into the air for you to juggle them with your gun. Oh yeah, Karen also has a gun. The gun’s rapid fire is useful for clearing enemies just out of reach. The gun, attack moves, and dash all have cooldowns, so there are moments where you might get caught in a vulnerable spot without much juice left to do anything.
Getting hit resets your combo counter and negatively affects your overall rating for the level, so it’s best to keep it moving and prioritize enemies strategically. The game encourages you to mix it up and use your entire arsenal, weaving together combos to rack up points for the best possible rating.
Audio cues clue you in when your gun is reloaded or when you’re out of juice to do special moves, or most importantly, when your special is ready. Karen’s special is a giant beam that can clear out an entire section of enemies or take off a chunk of a boss’s health. The game does audio cues so well that I rarely had to actually look at my meters. It clicked into place like a rhythm game.
The game rewards you for perfect combos, avoiding any hits and not dying. The real challenge is replaying levels to max out scores and get the illusive S+ rating. Even getting an S rank is pretty tough and I’ve spent a nice chunk of time replaying certain levels to get anything higher than an A rank.
Super Crush KO’s combat isn’t going to be too challenging for vets of the genre, but it’s still a really good time to see the screen wiped clean in a flurry of explosions and smoke clouds. I do have some tiny, miniscule, gripes. There were times when the screen would just turn into a big ol’ soggy bowl of cereal that made it hard to see where Karen was during a fight.
The game also freezes for a split second when you gain a heart back after taking damage. It’s intentional, but that would throw off my timing for certain attacks. And while the game is super short and can be finished in a few of hours, the amount of replayability baked in made me put in way more time than I was anticipating.
I still need to go back and get a few more S ranks and figure out how the heck to nail the S+ rank. So yeah, if you want, you can pour a ton of time into Super Crush KO. It’s a wonderful little brawler that has a lot more going for it than it seems.
Super Crush KO is out now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.