Graceful Explosion Machine was an early success story during the Switch’s launch period. Released by Toronto based indie developer Vertex Pop, the side scrolling arcade shooter was part of Switch’s initial indie gold rush. It became a critical and commercial hit thanks to its distinct visual palette, fluid animation, tight controls, and emphasis on getting the highest scores. GEM was eventually released on PlayStation 4 and Steam, garnering further acclaim.
Their latest project, Super Crush KO, is a 2D brawler that masterfully blends elements from GEM with satisfying beat em up gameplay. The game’s main character is a young woman named Karen whose cat Chubbz was abducted by aliens. She has to fight through swarms of evil robots to rescue Chubbz and save humanity from an evil AI entity. Super Crush KO immediately stands apart from its predecessors by having players play as human character instead of a generic spaceship. While Super Crush KO isn’t a story driven game, each level starts off with a short, anime inspired cutscene that illustrates Karen’s journey.
Vertex Pop CEO Mobeen Fikree was on hand at E3 to demo an early build of Super Crush KO. When asked about the game’s anime inspired theme, he said he left it up to his artist, Gabby DaRienzo, to create something distinct and cute. Much like GEM, Super Crush KO’s landscapes are filled with vibrant colors that pop. The buttery smooth character animation contribute to the game’s distinct look, making it a pleasure to both watch and play. The controls are easy to pick up so players will have no problem chaining together impressive combos. Fikree explained, “I’ve always placed great emphasis on intuitive controls and fluid animation.”
While the game is described as a beat em up, it plays like a hybrid brawler and shoot em up. Karen isn’t limited to just melee attacks. She has a gun that can be used to attack out of reach enemies as well as extend the combo multiplier. Karen is not only able to knock enemies back into each other, but also launch them into the air to perform aerial combos. Her ability to dash through enemies not only allows her to dodge their attacks, but also quickly reach enemies to extend combos. It’s encouraged to juggle enemies to increase the multiplier as well as build up her special meter. Once filled, the special meter allows Karen to unleash a powerful beam attack that can clear a row of enemies.
Karen unlocks new abilities via food themed power ups. Picking up a pizza slice power up grants her the Uppercut Slice ability, allowing her to launch enemies in the air. Grabbing the popcorn power up activates the powerful Air Pop skill, enabling Karen to quickly attack multiple airborne enemies. When asked about the decision to use food as a means to acquire new abilities, Fikree laughed and proudly proclaimed, “Because it’s cute!” Despite the game’s cutesy appearances, the game play is anything but laid back.
Each stage is broken up in segments where players are graded on an A – D scale. Grades are given based on combo length and how many successive enemies are defeated. While Karen is able to punch indefinitely, there are cool down meters that prevent players from constantly using her gun and special abilities. Thankfully the cool down times are very short, encouraging frequent and creative use to prolong combo chains. When questioned about the game’s colorful combo flavor text that pops up during attacks, Fikree mentioned they were inspired by Devil May Cry. “We’re big fans of DMC and Bayonetta and how they make the players feel empowered,” Fikree explained. The demo wraps up with Karen fighting a powerful enemy that’s immune to being knocked back and juggled. Players are given an overall grade once they clear the stage.
The E3 build offered a short, but impressive preview of the game’s addictive potential. It’s definitely on CFG’s watch list and will certainly be an excellent follow up to GEM. Super Crush KO is shaping up to be a fantastic game and we’re excited to play it when it releases next year.