Thu, 08 Nov 2012 Super Crate Box for iPad and iPhone review
One screen, ten crates, a thousand deaths in this unforgiving yet joyful action-platformer
Super Crate Box is a silly but very addictive platform game for the iPad and iPhone.
It's a slapdash port of a PC game with frankly horrible controls, and yet it's still as compulsive as a sack full of Pringles. That it can succeed in spite of a howler of a flaw says a lot about just how splendid Super Crate Box - a game as wilfully silly as its wilfully silly title - really is.
It looks like an old 8-bit platform game, but each level is a single-screen affair from the top of which enemies large and small constantly tumble, then stomp their way towards a fiery pit at the bottom of the level. With very limited room to manoeuvre, you'll forever be in the way of these monsters' suicidal march, and should they touch you, you die. Your job, meanwhile, is to collect the crates which randomly spawn across the level. Collecting 10 without dying unlocks a new level, but collecting 10 without dying is also a near-superhuman accomplishment.
To help you on this frantic, desperate journey of pinballing around the level's platforms are guns. You start with a pistol, which is near useless, but every time you grab a crate you'll be given a new weapon at random. The slow-firing rocketlauncher can demolish several foes at once, the machinegun is well-suited to shooting on the move, and the dual-pistol is a cruel punishment that you'll want to rid yourself of as quickly as possible.
As you collect more crates across multiple attempts at the level, you'll unlock more weapons - flamethrowers, grenade launchers, revolvers, the frightening, lethal boomerang that is the disc thrower - and these are a huge help in keeping the endless parade of enemies at bay so you can reach the magic 10.
As such, dying isn't quite failure, because any crates you collected before your latest unfortunate demise goes towards the total sum required for the next weapon unlock. On top of that, the sheer momentum you build up playing Super Crate Box means death is a momentary distraction and frustration, then you're straight back in, trying again, jumping and shooting, collecting and running. In fact, shooting isn't as large a part of the game as that parade of weapons might suggest - you're primarily avoiding the marching foes, forever pursuing the next crate.
Alas, the controls are horrible. On-screen buttons, too small and too close together, too hard to press jump and shoot simultaneously, and these are at least as common a cause of sudden death as are the enemies. It's admittedly difficult to conceive of a better system for a touchscreen, given this is a game of speed and precision, but that doesn't mean the current one doesn't harm it. It most certainly doesn't kill it, though.