Vertex Pop, developer of Graceful Explosion Machine, is back - and it has shifted from 2D shooter to a brawler with impressive results. If you’re a pet owner, you’ll know the very unique bond you have with your animal. They’re your best friend, your pride and joy, and you’d do anything for them – just look at John Wick. Thankfully, Super Crush KO isn’t quite as grisly – this brawler trades Keanu for Karen, owner of adorable (if arguably overfed) cat Chubbz (and no, it’s not the Karen from the original Switch trailer, before you ask).
One day, Chubbz is abducted by a mysterious assailant, and it’s up to Karen to save her feline friend by battling through waves of robots. If all of this sounds strange, you ain't seen nothing yet. Karen brawls from left to right in true old school fashion, handily laying waste to dozens of enemies at once. Things start off nice and simple, with our heroine pummelling robots with her fists before drawing her blaster to deal ranged damage.
Before long, Karen is equipped with the “Twister Drill”, which, when combined with the ability to target enemies in mid-air, allows her to leap from enemy to enemy – before using a Ground Pound to mop up the rest. Each upgrade is earned by finding confectionery and food products in your journey – like a slice of pizza that unlocks the ability to dish out an uppercut, for example.
Most of these upgrades are earned within the first hour – and that’s a good thing. These abilities give Super Crush KO feel empowering sense of rhythm to combat, and the sooner players understand the innate language of each battle, the sooner Karen is pummelling, shooting, and uppercutting her way to Chubbz. Dodging provides a brief window of invulnerability, and as things escalate it becomes invaluable. The pièce de résistance is a devastating super beam which can deal big damage, even to boss battles.
These larger fights bookend each chapter and steadily increase in challenge. They’re a test of both movement and offensive abilities, and with the game feeling similar to Guacemelee (but without the Metroidvania elements), controls are wonderfully responsive. Platforming is fairly minimal in Super Crush KO; it's usually there to add a little extra spice to combat arenas, but spike traps and dissolving platforms can certainly wreak havoc on the more frantic combat levels – especially for those chasing an S-Rank.
Each of the game’s twenty levels offers leaderboard functionality, and the chance to earn the highest commendation. Points are earned for varied offence and multipliers are lost by taking damage – making aggressive, smart play the best way course of action.
Wherever you play, whether on the Switch itself or docked, Super Crush KO is a sumptuous-looking game. Each locale is similar in terms of function, but each has its own distinct flavouring, pulled together by a pastel art style that looks so cool in motion. Add to that great animations for Karen and clearly telegraphed enemy types (of which there are plenty), and you’ve got a great visual package that feels refreshingly laid back (helped by a story that’s the best kind of nonsense).
It can take time to adjust to Super Crush KO’s art-style, as many of the solid platforms can actually be shot-through by Karen’s blaster while others can’t. It’s a design language that takes a handful of levels to learn, but before long you’ll know exactly who and what you can hit from any given angle.
A special mention to the sound, too – combat mixes the satisfying thud of landing punches with the rat-a-tat-tat of a blaster to create almost a second soundtrack over the shimmering synths that sit low in the mix. If you’re playing on the go, try Super Crush KO with headphones and thank us later.
The biggest negative about the whole experience is its brevity. Like so many examples of the genre, Super Crush KO is over all too quickly, and while it's a real blast while it lasts, it's a shame that a little more content couldn't have been included to keep you glued to your screen.
Whichever way you play, Vertex Pop has done it again. Not unlike Karen’s various food treats that power-up her move set, Super Crush KO offers short-term satisfaction but it's very sweet while it lasts. Despite the compactness of the experience, it looks great and plays even better – so what are you waiting for? Go forth and save your kitty.
Short but it's only about $15, that's not too bad imo
Ah, I was hoping this would be good. I liked Graceful Explosion Machine, and I love the concept of a brawler where you play as a woman trying to rescue her cat. Hilarious!
Honestly, the fact it’s short sounds like a positive for me - more and more I’m loving it when I can complete a game in a single day, so this sounds really good!
Definitely looks interesting, I’ll probably pick this up.
The 10% discount at launch isn't quite enough to entice me to grab it and add it to the backlog but I'll throw it on the wish list and maybe grab it the next time it's on sale.
The lack of canine shenanigans is disappointing. What do we have to do to get a game where you have to rescue a poodle from an evil French wizard?
Huh. Definitely a choice game to pick up later.
How long are you talking to complete it then?
Short but decent. This says $3 Steam Sale all over it then.
"(and no, it’s not the Karen from the original Switch trailer, before you ask)."
Wait. There was a different Karen?
More like Kino Makoto
@DockEllisD Right?! Every rad games comes out and I'm like "I'll NEVER have enough free time to play through everything I have sitting in my backlog, but this looks good so I'll get it too!" Christ, I could do NOTHING but play video games for the rest of my life and never run out of theoretical new stuff to play until I was dead from BACKLOG alone.
How short is short? Are we talking closer to Sayonara Wild Hearts & Donut County ( both sub 2hr) or are talking something closer to Bastion and Transistor (around 3-5 hrs)?
Edit: According to the sixthaxis there are about 20 levels that take around 5-10 minutes to beat so overall playtime is looking to be around 2-3 hours. Wish Nintendolife would have put the playtime in the review.
@Oat hey! Thanks for reading the review!
You’re right, that was an oversight of sorts on my part. How much you get out of the game, time-wise, is going to really be down to how much of a score-chaser you are.
I’ve found myself itching to jump back in, so I suppose that’s a good sign!
@MJL I agree. I find myself playing a game for a few days only to go off and okay something else for a bit anymore. A short game is always a plus.
"Might not be for dog lovers" wow.. really struggled to come up with some cons I see.
@lloydcoombes No problem. I definitely agree that score chasing will add some play time. The only reason I asked about total playtime is that length can be a huge determining factor for people when buying a game. 'Short' ends up coming coming across a bit vague as you could tell in my original comment.
It sounds great. Add to future Wishlist...
Graceful Explosion Machine has changed my whole opinion on games of this genre, it was a masterpiece. Can't wait to give this one a shot
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