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 )

http://www.supercratebox.com/?p=downloads 

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

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