Game of the Week: Super Crate Box

Well, since we’ve seen a game like Kingdom Rush today, I figured I’d give us all a nice little hit of nostalgia and 8-bit gameplay fun. Super Crate Box is a brand new indie game from Vlambeer which will be showcased at this year’s PAX East in Boston. Now here’s a company who saw the complexity of their controls, reworked them and seem to have made a game that is far easier and more accessible given new mechanics. Here’s the point:

Alright, so in Super Crate Box, you play as a super amazing crate that must fend off enemy hoards that want to eat your tasty box contents. Each crate you acquire during the game will give you access to new guns and ammo that will help you mutilate the hoards of 8-bit enemies along the way. Now, I obviously have gotten my hands on the BETA version of the game. The newly refined iOS tablet/phone versions look like they control MUCH simpler than the BETA version. So, sadly, I have to discuss functionality of this version and compare it to the upgrade – so hold in there with me.

Super Crate Box is visually stunning, in a sort of, “Oh look at how vintage I am!”, sort of way. It gave a visual feel akin to the many times I played through Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. The platform shooter is amazing visual wise. The cute little crate wielding weapons of doom is pretty amusing and the aliens have just enough AI to make the game tense and appealing. Now, as far as the gameplay is concerned this is where it gets tedious and I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to rip bandaids off the wounds now.

Super Crate Box is probably far MORE accessible via a tablet or phone device, but the Mac and PC versions require an incredible amount of dexterity and precision to accomplish. This is because the key settings are all across the keyboard. There are a limited number of controls: Z for jump, X for shoot, and the Arrow Keys for movement. To actually make my crate-boy jump took some difficult finger movements to accomplish. Perhaps that’s just me, but the controls felt clunky and spaced out too much to make an accessible match fully possible. I would love to try the game out on iOS, because I think the game is a wonderful vintage installment.

Here’s a video of what the iOS tablet version looks like [ I want! ]:

If I could click the screen that would have helped too. If I could just touch a space on the play field and my crate-boy would jump to a platform and grab a box, etc. that would provide so much more fluid accessibility to the game. A couple of other things about the game that I found sort of difficult in my PC version: The options menu provides you a control scheme A or B, but it doesn’t tell you what the control scheme switch is – what buttons etc. This is frustrating, because I wish there was a “Mouse Only” control on here so that all actions could be initiated by a single touch. It would make the game behave smoother, perhaps that’s why they drafted the game for iOS, so that they could provide a smoother gameplay experience.

Vlambeer is a wonderful new company and I wish them the best of success, and great eye noticing the accessibility concerns from your PC draft. I think the change to iOS medium will give the game a more “NES” style of gameplay that you can hold in your hand. I’m hoping that this game becomes a cult hit. It’s already been an underground sensation since 2010, but now with all the kinks out and a more accessible platform maybe they’ll get even more people playing this wonderful game.

I brought this game to attention today, because I thought it was important for people to see how game companies can learn from initial launches of games and see where the accessibility lacks. This, in turn, can help them design and draft a more accessible version down the line.

Colorblind gamers may have some issues with some of the backgrounds and platforms, but the enemies are all very varied vibrant colors and so that makes spotting them much easier. Motion-impaired gamers will have a severely hard time with the PC version as it requires use of both hands and precision to pull off all the moves, and deaf players can play this game no problem, as it really doesn’t require the use of sound to play. Overall, it’s nice to see a game company recognize that their game could fit an accessible mobile market, and I’m excited to see the future of this game.

You can currently get Super Crate Box via iPhone, iPad, or in the iCade for .99 cents! This is an amazing deal and it’s got a lot of great gameplay value for a mere dollar! I’m unsure if they’ll be launching an Android version, but if I manage a convention this year I’ll try and see if I can’t ask if an Android version would be possible. This is a great example of how controls can make a game more difficult, but how developers can learn from that difficulty and turn it into a positive step forward in accessibility. I would also like to point out that games like this would also be wonderful on console formats! Wink Wink Vlambeer!

If you want to check out the PC/Mac version of it you can check out the link here:

( The PC version link is right underneath the OSX version in small print just fyi ) 

Happy alien-hunting, you gun-weilding future-Craters!

Game of the Week: Kingdom Rush

It’s that time again folks. We’ve gone around the horn this week and we’ve arrived, once again, at Game of the Week time! Now personally, I wanted to do a review this week on a modern console game, Warped, but unfortunately they don’t have a demo version to check out, so instead, I’m going to provide you all with a lovely game that you can play from your browser. This week we talk Kingdom Rush by Ironhide Games Studio.

Now the reason that I included this game this week is because, for one, it’s easily accessible and secondly, I wanted to show how games can be fun via accessible control schemes. There are so many games out there that use 16+ button combinations and tactics and you have to push R1+X+L1+Δ to do one combo, and I just want to show what’s capable with just a simple mouse click. Later today I’ll cover a game that I find great, but has a complex control setting – and you’ll see where the complexity rises.

Now Kingdom Rush, is a tower defense game. In the game you are required to arm your troops, set up your turrets, and keep hoards of goblins, orcs, mages, etc. away from your base. Now this concept has been done over and over again, but what made the game for me was the art style and the accessible controls. The art style is child-like in nature. Bright vibrant colors, simplistic controls, and tension-building gameplay make this game a must witness. The gameplay was vastly accessible, as every motion I took required merely a mouse click. The further levels, however, do get a tad harder when boss battles occur due to having to click multiple times on certain towers to save them.

There are 12 levels, each with 2 difficulty settings [ Easy and Normal ] and Three Challenges: Star Completion, Heroic Challenge, and Iron Challenge. There are also more levels upon completion, but they are premium content only. The difficulty of these tasks increases exponentially depending upon which you choose. I know I’ve had a difficult time grasping how to position my troops on certain Heroic and Iron Challenges where they give you specific parameters and restrictions per level. This increases the replay and play value of the game though.

You’re now not just going through the motions of 12 levels, you’re having to go back and challenge yourself to see if you can beat X number of waves with only X available to you. This is an intriguing method to keep the game entertaining, and I know some of you may say, “It’s just a tower defense game, I’ve played loads of those before, why is this one any different?” – well, because it gives you variety, challenge, and keeps a player on their toes. Constantly introducing new enemies and bosses throughout the levels and keeping the hoards vast enough to provide for fast-paced tension throughout a play through.

I strongly suggest folks take a look at this game and see the capabilities of gameplay mechanics that can occur when you cut down game inputs to single button presses. I’m an advocate for games like this, and I’m hoping that eventually console markets will see a necessity to incorporate this, sort of, “mobile game” mentality into their gameplay. Mobile games may seem like they go against everything that us console fans crave. We want controllers and we want intense action and we want stimulus coming at us from every direction, but the truth of the matter is this game shows that those things are possible even with simplistic controls. I’m truly excited for the Wii U, because I feel like this is going to be an opportunity where mobile single-click input technology may actually make a console accessible via the touchscreen controller.

Some of you Xbox fans may be saying:

“Well, what about Kinect? Doesn’t it provide accessibility in some ways?”

True, it does, but it seems the idea of accessibility is a minor concern on the part of motion-control accessibility. Motion-impaired gamers don’t have access to using Wii remotes, Move controllers, etc. and just because you make a game console ‘hands free’ doesn’t mean that movement of some kind is required by a sensor to pick up actions. If a person is immobile and can only move a small portion of their body, having full body motion control becomes pointless.

Now Xbox is making strides in this market, with their experimentation with voice control schemes via Mass Effect 3, but the only use of it I’ve seen is in demos done at conventions. I’m not sure how well it works, or for what functions, but you still have to use a controller for most functions. This is discouraging, but it’s a step in the right direction that may see improvement later – I’ll talk in-depth about this on a later post.

I personally believe that this technology could go a great way towards making games accessible within the home environment, so motion-impaired gamers don’t have to settle on the sidelines of gaming, but can immerse themselves in the action by vocally bringing up their commands, menus, etc. Keep this in mind fellow developers as we go forth into the next-generation of gaming. Now back to the game!

All this aside though, Kingdom Rush is a great game, and I know many have played it. If you haven’t though, I urge you to see what one-button input technology can create. Kingdom Rush is a lush, immersive strategy game that will keep you thinking and working on your strategies for quite some time. It is available on IPhones and IPads in the App Store for $ 2.99 [ Currently there is no Android Market version, though I’m hoping for one! ] and this version includes upgrades not found in the free version which I’ll post a link to here:

Kingdom Rush by Ironhide Games:

I found that in some of the levels, color blind gamers may have some trouble as some enemies colors [ like white wolves, etc.] may blend in on the snowy mountain levels, and on the upgrades screen the coloration on the upgrades may be a bit harsh, but overall it’s a wonderful game and I urge people to check it out. I’ll be back soon with my second Game of the Week this week, and it’ll help me explain the importance of why simple control schemes can make better and more accessible games.

Stay tuned and happy orc-hunting!