Super Crate Box ($0.99) by Vlambeer is a frantic retro game that will be sure to give you hours of frustrating enjoyment.
Remember those golden days of arcade gaming, when all that mattered was trying to get the high score to brag to all of your friends? Yeah, those were the days. Along with the awesome pixelated graphics and catchy chiptunes – yep, it was definitely a high point in gaming. Fortunately, now you can relive these golden days with the next best thing: Super Crate Box on iOS.
What started as a free indie Mac and PC game is now available on your iPhone and iPad (it's a universal app). There are only three areas, and the entire level will fit on your screen, without the need to zoom in or out to see more. Of course, only the first area is available to you from the start; to unlock the other two areas, you will need to meet the minimum requirements, which are quite difficult (even in my several days of playing the game).
In Super Crate Box, you control a small pixelated character on the screen (who has a different appearance every time you start a new round). There are crates that will appear throughout the level, with each giving you a new weapon to use to fend off the swarm of falling monsters. However, the goal in the game is to not kill as many monsters as you can, but rather, collect as many crates as you can. Each round will probably last you no more than a few seconds, and if you’re really good, maybe a minute or two. The game is fast-paced, but it will definitely keep you playing (if you don’t give up).
“Collect crates?” you say. Yes, the goal of the game is to collect the crates. While some weapons are more effective than others, it doesn’t matter – you must collect crates and gamble with what you may find inside. Combine the goal with surviving an endless wave of brainless enemies, and you’ve got yourself a real challenge. Perhaps even too much of a challenge.
The controls are ridiculously simple. On the bottom left, there are two arrows that will move your character left and right. On the other side, there are two buttons: B and A. The A button allows your character to jump (hold it down to jump continuously), and the B button allows you to fire whatever weapon you have in your possession (unfortunately, holding down B doesn’t repeatedly fire). To pause a game, just tap on the button in the top left. This will also bring up the in-game menu, where you can toggle the music and sound, or go back to the main menu.
While the controls are very simple, I had a bit of trouble with them at times. It seems that you have to be touching the button precisely, which lead me to my death a few times. There doesn’t seem to be any leeway with the pixels around the buttons – to move, jump, or fire, you must be pressing the buttons exactly. In such a frantic environment, this makes the game a bit harder than it should be. I understand that the controls were meant to be precise, but perhaps it can be addressed in the future, which would make me less inclined to toss my phone across the room.
When you start out, you will have access to a few weapons and character skins. To unlock more, you will have to keep collecting crates. You’ll see how many more you need to collect for the next unlock after you die on the current round. As far as weapons are concerned, you start out with the more-than-useless Shotgun, but you will unlock more awesome weapons (such as the Disc Gun, Laser Rifle, Rocket Launcher, and more) as you play.
In order to unlock the second level, you will need to collect at least 10 crates in the first level (and repeat the process with the third level). Collecting 10 crates is actually a lot harder than it sounds – at this point, my highest is nine, so you can see my frustration (I hope). And yet, I keep playing, because I keep hoping that my next round will be the one where I can miraculously end up with at least 10 crates.
The game also keeps track of your stats for each level, which is accessed through the main menu. You can see how many crates you’ve collected, and other tidbits.
The game features OpenFeint and Game Center support for leaderboards and achievements. The leaderboard is where the charm of the old age gaming comes in to play, because you can see how much better you are than your friends, or see how terrible you are (I’m the latter). However, I appreciate the achievements, because they are extremely fun to collect in this frenzied game.
Those who are lucky enough to own an iCade, you'll be pleased to know that this game is compatible, should you want to have the full arcade experience.
Super Crate Box is incredibly fun, yet frustrating, to play. I just hope that the controls get a bit more flexibility in the future, because it’s really hard to keep your fingers precisely on the buttons when the levels are so hysterical.
Despite this, Super Crate Box is a lot of fun, and worth a dollar to have it on your iPhone or iPad and compete with friends.