Indie developers have a way of tackling a new genre and throwing people for a loop when they absolutely nail it. Vertex Pop initially made its debut on the Nintendo Switch with the colorful and entertaining shooter Graceful Explosion Machine. Now it’s returned a few years later with an equally wild side-scrolling brawler Super Crush KO, a game that’s just as much about being clever on the defense as it is delivering powerful blows to robots. It’s a sheer delight that’s going to stand out for many as we kick off a new gaming year.
Meet Karen. She’s a normal woman living in her apartment with her beloved feline, Chubbz. However, an alien girl suddenly comes out of nowhere and kidnaps the cat. You think Karen’s just going to sit there and call the police? Hell, no. She laces up in her best fighting gear and takes on the alien girl’s robotic army, in the hope of being reunited with her pet.
Now, there is some bonkers stuff that happens story-wise here. Suddenly Karen is gifted with a number of powerful fighting abilities, including dash moves, uppercuts and more. She also has a semi-invincible dash technique that helps her get through enemy bullets and attacks, which are usually highlighted in red. Oh, and she can unleash a Dragon Ball Z-style attack that can devastate opponents in their wake, though she’s only able to use it in a limited fashion. (Her gun is also useful, in case she needs to shoot someone — though it too requires recharging.)
Now, it all sounds simple and good, until this weird alien mistress begins piling on the robots and introducing the boss enemies. That’s where Super Crush KO really begins to pick up in challenge, as you dodge bullets, unleash attacks, and then repeat. It’s a brawler that never gets boring, and can even be frustrating if you don’t master the techniques. But, hey, practice makes perfect, am I right?
Vertex Pop pours on the charm with the game’s visuals, which look like something out of a spirited anime. Super Crush KO is just as much fun to watch as it is to play, right down to the colorful dispatching of enemies. Sure, the screen can be cluttered at times, but that’s just the nature of the game. Whether playing docked or on the go, this is a swell-looking game.
Likewise, the music has its moments, too. The smooth synthesizer fits in nicely with the action, and the meaty blows of each punch and attack are fun. I do wish there was more voiceover, but that’s a minor nitpick.
As for the gameplay, it feels balanced just right. Sure, it can be a bit on the tough side later on, but you’ll really begin to appreciate when you master all of Karen’t moves, including her blaster. Systematically taking down opponents for the highest score possible is a real treat. And you can always go back and challenge others, thanks to the game’s awesome addition of online leaderboards. Can you land in the top ten? Yeah, good luck with that.
I think if anything holds back Super Crush KO, it’s its short length. The game can be beaten in a night, leaving just the high score challenges to come back to. That’s not the end of the world, though. This is a fun little journey, and there’s nothing to stop you from taking it again. Unless you have a thing against cats, though. (That Cats movie just might have turned a few of you.)
In the end, Super Crush KO is another winner out of the indie category. Vertex Pop really dials in the gameplay here, so that you feel the sheer confidence and thrill of each combat scenario. And the reliable move set is something else too, as you can mix up attacks and find a new way to build up a score. Throw in a lovable presentation on top of that, and you’ve got a game that’ll knock you out. Even if you aren’t necessarily a cat person.