Platforms: PC (version played), iOS, Vita
It’s quite natural for something to become more and more complex as it evolves over time and video game design has been no exception to this rule. In an age of blockbuster titles created by teams hundreds in size and rapidly iterating technology, this certainly isn’t primed to change any time soon.
With increased growth comes a greater chance of collapse but the industry’s widespread marketplace success is definitely a good thing, for without it, ambitious, genre-defining titles would no longer be viable. That said, it’s often nice to look backwards rather than forwards, to trace the lineage, and appreciate a simpler time. Super Crate Box takes this warm nostalgia and distils it, producing a substance pure in retro delight.
There is no story. It’s just you and an endless onslaught of enemies in a battle to survive and achieve the highest of scores. In order to score, the player needs to collect the titular crates and doing so not only results in a point bump but also gives the player a shiny new weapon to toy with, whether you want it or not. Weapons are crucial for survival and the culling of crowds, each one more apt for dealing with certain enemies or certain situations. Over time, your arsenal will increase and get more powerful but also more difficult to use effectively; the rebounding ‘disc gun’ will lead to numerous unintentional suicides.
Speaking of difficulty, its blunt brutality is somewhat of a system shock at first. Modern games have conditioned us with gentle difficulty easing luxuries but none of those are here; if you’re hit, you’re dead. Frustration is obviously a factor then but the game’s flow helps to nullify this with instant restarts. You’re too busy attempting to retain your renewed life amidst the chaos and collect that next crate, to really let the anger sink in.
So many indie throwbacks use pixel art and chiptune to establish their retro trappings, that one would be forgiven for thinking their potency as a device of audiovisual pleasure is starting to wane but surprisingly, that’s not the case. Super Crate Box looks great, bursting with charm and character and arguably, sounds even better.
Above all else though, it nails the fundamentals: movement is snappy, jumping is precise, and shooting and slashing are irresistibly satisfying. Taking these superbly realised mechanics in consideration with every other fine facet of Super Crate Box and you end up with both a reverent homage to games gone by and one with enough of its own playful identity to warrant considerable praise.