Since its launch, the Nintendo Switch and Indies have complimented each other beautifully. In the early months of the systems life, after besting Ganon, it was Indies we all turned to. Of those, Graceful Explosion Machine stood out with its bright visuals and tight action gameplay.
Skip forward a few years, and the team over at Vertex Pop are back with Super Crush KO. Released on 16th January (for Nintendo Switch and Steam), it’s time for another injection of bold colour and fast action into your game library.
Super Crush KO keeps with the gameplay sensibilities seen in Vertex Pop’s past titles, but applies them to an action brawler. As Karen, you find yourself victim to the most heinous of crimes. Rule Zero has been broken – someone’s taken your cat! (Also they’re also invading the planet or something, but that’s neither here nor there).
You work way across 20 levels, destroying every robot in sight. And thanks to it’s superb pacing and satisfying combat, it’s an absolute joy to do so.
It’s a fairly simple combat system to get your head around. You have basic attack buttons, and when combined with a directional input, you’ll be juggling enemies and throwing them across the screen every which way.
There are no complicated movements to learn, it doesn’t take long to settle into the games pacing, and you’ll quickly start racking up those hits. Naturally, the bigger the combo the better the score.
It’s this high score chase that is the real hook of Super Crush KO. Picture this game as a blend of Bayonetta and OlliOlli. Movement is wonderfully fluid, and you’ll be darting across levels trying to do everything to keep your combo alive.
Throughout the game, new robot enemies are introduced, but my approach to tackling them never changed. It’s a difficult balance – on the one hand, hitting an awkward stumbling block is never fun, but with everything feeling so familiar, it’s easy for things to become monotonous.
Sadly, the lack of variety also applies to the bosses. Whilst fun, the bosses are very similar to each other, just with a few extra moves. I would’ve loved to see them change things up, and force me to use Karen’s abilities in unique ways.
As I’m sure you’ve seen from the screenshots already, Super Crush KO is bright, bold, and a real treat for the eyes. It stands out from the crowd thanks to its vibrant colour pallet, and it’s a clean design throughout.
On the face of it, it could look too simple and flat, bringing back flash game vibes. But, I’m happy to say, in motion, that’s not the case. Everything is well animated and really serves the game. For as chaotic as things can get, the design means bullets and enemy attack cues stand out. I never found myself frustrated because I died thanks to a rogue attack that blurred into the background.
As with the gameplay, for as good as the design is, I wish Super Crush KO took things a little further. Across the 4 main areas, there’s not much difference. Each area has the same look and feel, only with a slight variant on the colour pallet.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention frame rate and stability at this point. After all, a good brawler needs to run solid. I’m happy to report that there are no issues here. Whether in docked or handheld, Super Crush KO performed beautifully. I only noticed a small dip in frames in the most hectic of scenes, and even then, it was so minor it didn’t cause any problems.
The real focus of Super Crush KO is the gameplay, but it doesn’t scrimp on the audio either. Sounds are satisfying and add weight to the world.
Similarly, the soundtrack complements the visuals and story perfectly. It’s an upbeat, synth-pop ride – just don’t expect it stick in your head for long. That’s not to say there’s a bad track, and no song is overplayed or becomes annoying. Just I didn’t find it memorable. The music is content sitting in the background, whereas I would’ve preferred some big hooks to jam to, whilst I’m fighting for that S+ rank.
With 20 levels, and each averaging around 5-6mins in length, if you just B-line straight for the finish, Super Crush KO would be over in an afternoon. But to do so would be a disservice to the game.
Really it’s about the thrill of hitting the score. At the end of levels, I immediately thought about where I could improve, and wanted to jump back in for one more try. The bitesize levels and tight gameplay meant every retry was just as enjoyable as the last.
To be rewarded with an S+ rank at the end of a level was immensely satisfying, and watching my name rise up on each levels individual leaderboard always left me with a smile. And whilst there’s no actual multiplayer to be found, there’s plenty of fun to have passing the controller and trying to better your friends score.
With that said, the biggest disappointment is the lack of variety in the game. Levels look and feel very similar, bosses are rinse and repeat, and there’s little to mix things up. I would’ve loved to have seen sections add more of a platforming challenge, or there at least be a variety of difficulty options.
Super Crush KO is a delight to play. It’s fast, fluid, and hugely satisfying. But even in it’s short stay, it’s all becomes a bit too familiar. I just wish the game mixed things up more, or added more challenge overall.
That said, I can’t wait for more from Vertex Pop, and look forward to the next dive into the world of Super Crush KO. But for now, the only thing left to do is award Super Crush KO a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
This article was written by Rich Canning