Thursday, November 04, 2010

Review: Super Crate Box

Title: Super Crate Box
Developer: Vlambeer
Genre: Shoot'Em Up/Arcade
Program: ???

"Have you heard the good news about SUPER CRATE BOX?" - Craze

Super Crate Box doesn't easily fall into a genre, which is fairly ironic for a game that's all about boxes. I've tried comparing it to other games but there isn't really anything out there that you can compare it to. The closest I can get is to say "it's an arcade game", but this brings up a whole new set of problems because the arcade genre is a pretty vague category in and of itself. What are you gonna do? In the end, the best thing to do is to explain the objective:

Super Crate Box is a game where you collect crates. 

Sound stupid? It probably does because you're probably thinking the same thing that I was thinking as I scanned through the screenshots and my friends were thinking as I tried explaining it to them: "How could that be fun?" 

I will attempt to give an answer...

The gameplay in Super Crate Box, like I've already said, consists mainly of collecting crates. In these crates are weapons and you use these weapons to kill enemies. These enemies cascade from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen in a predictable way and are fairly easy to dodge. Touching an enemy results in your death, but since dodging them isn't that hard you're probably thinking: "Where is the challenge?" 

The challenge comes from the utter chaos that ensues when you introduce these two gameplay mechanics:

1) Enemies that you don't kill before reaching the bottom of the screen will re-spawn at the top and move twice as fast as they originally did. They will continue to re-spawn (although they won't get faster) over and over until you do kill them.

2) Each time you collect a new crate, you discard your current weapon for the one in the crate. 

In case you can't see how this works, what essentially happens if you don't kill enemies is that the screen becomes flooded with them and they are no longer easy to dodge. This forces you to kill them, but because some weapons are better than others and because you always have to discard your current weapon for the one in the next crate, you're not always going to be well equipped to do this. When this happens you're forced to either:

1) Run to the next crate as quickly as possible so that you can get a new weapon, all the time hoping it's better than the one you have and that only a few enemies manage to re-spawn during this time. 

2) Attempt to kill the enemies with a non-ideal weapon.

Now do you see where the challenge is? This game essentially uses complete chaos as a weapon against you, always trying to keep you in two minds about what to do next. If you have a good weapon in your hands then you don't really want to part with it, but if you don't collect more crates then you'll never get a good score. You both fear and crave the next crate at the same time and this strange mix of anticipation and trepidation is something that you don't experience too often in videogames (or ever), making this a unique experience.

The game builds on this by including unlockable levels, unlockable costumes and unlockable weapons based on the number of crates you've collected. Because these totals are cumulative regardless of your deaths, it doesn't unfairly punish players who aren't too good at chaining crate combos together, keeping the game fun whilst you're still learning how to play. On the other hand, the game also allows you to unlock harder versions of each level if you manage to chain together a certain number of crates on that level, rewarding those people who do get good at chaining crates together. Essentially, the game caters for players of all skill levels and that's hard to find in an arcade game because arcade games are famous for having "brick walls" that you'll never get past if you aren't good enough. 

Of course, for those who get really good there's also the challenge of competing for the top-spot on the on-line leaderboards on the game's website. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near good enough to get onto those scoreboards so this isn't something I've experienced, but it's there if you need it and I think it's a good idea.

Chaos is fun!

As you can see from the screenshot, the graphics in the game are pretty simple. This is a strongpoint. The simple graphics won't cause any distractions and this means that you always know what is what. This is good in a game where you don't really have a chance to stop and think, because stopping and thinking generally leads to death. The music is equally simple, being of the chip-tune variety, and I don't have any complaints about this because I really like old-school videogame music and the tunes in this game are particularly good. Their high-tempo beats fit the chaotic style of gameplay really well; a perfect match.

Ultimately, the game doesn't have enough content to keep you smiling forever, but you'll probably get several hours of fun out of this game before you truly get bored. And of course, I can't really criticise a game for having too little content when it's a free game and it gave me hours and hours of playtime. Plus, if you leave it for a couple of days then it becomes fun again anyway. Score!

Instead of forcing you to play through the same crap over and over again just so you can see something new, Super Crate Box ensures you are always having fun and always unlocking new things regardless of your skill level. This is a rare trait in arcade games and it's one that makes this game stand out. 9/10


  1. This game sounds great mate! I will definitely be giving it a try!

  2. cool review, crazy colours on the blog ;)

  3. I'm glad that you've let SUPER CRATE BOX into your heart.

  4. with all this talk of crates I thought you were talking about TF2.

    anyways gonna keep an eye on this blog.