110 OK KO! Let’s Play He­roes

De­vel­oper Capy Games Pub­lisher Car­toon Net­work For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Out now


PC, PS4, Xbox One

We spend a good five hours wait­ing for an ‘All Your Base’ gag that never comes. The Car­toon Net­work an­i­ma­tion on which Capy’s lat­est out­ing is based is clearly made by a team in love with videogames, but there’s lit­tle of the pan­der­ing nod­ding and wink­ing you might ex­pect here. Yes, there are ref­er­ences to games, such as the line about them be­ing bet­ter than real life (“You get points!”), but OK KO! Let’s Play He­roes is cheer­ingly mat­ter-of-fact about its in­spi­ra­tions, pre­fer­ring to build its own world rather than remind you of some­one else’s. Lit­tle won­der, re­ally, given the set-up, which is ar­guably bet­ter suited to a game than a kids’ TV show.

The denizens of Lake­wood Plaza Turbo, a small, colour­ful strip mall, are all he­roes – of­fi­cially so. It’s proven by their Pow card, a gleam­ing foil ef­fort that shows their hero level, built up over a life­time’s worth of do­ing good. Pro­tag­o­nist KO’s mother, a burly mar­tial-arts in­struc­tor, is a lofty level 11. Rad, a dude­bro alien who works with KO at the lo­cal mini-mart, Gar’s Bodega, is a re­spectable level three. KO, how­ever, is yet to get his card. He spends his days run­ning er­rands for his boss and co-work­ers, pump­ing his daily wages into the bodega’s Pow vend­ing ma­chine in the hope of fi­nally get­ting a card that’s adorned by his dinky frame. When it fi­nally comes out, it’s a level zero; im­me­di­ately, every other hero has their card progress re­set to the same num­ber. Sud­denly KO’s path to true hero­ism is clear: he must find out what hap­pened, then help his friends get their hero lev­els back – while, hope­fully, also gain­ing one to call his own. The cul­prit is Lord Box­man, a clas­si­cally trained car­toon vil­lain based across the road in a fac­tory that spe­cialises in wise-crack­ing bat­tle ro­bots. KO, de­spite his sup­posed lack of hero­ism, is won­der­fully adept at fight­ing them. Com­bat is the beat­ing heart of Let’s Play He­roes, set on a scrolling 2D plane us­ing a sys­tem that owes more than a small debt to ver­sus fight­ing games, and the Marvel Vs Cap­com se­ries in par­tic­u­lar. It’s there in the sim­plic­ity of nor­mal at­tacks, mapped here to a sin­gle but­ton, with D-pad mod­i­fiers hit­ting low or launch­ing. It’s in the air too, where you’ll quickly re­alise you can dash af­ter an op­po­nent you’ve just knocked away to con­tinue the as­sault – but try to loop it too many times and they’ll flip out to safety.

It’s es­pe­cially ob­vi­ous in the Powie Zowie sys­tem, a sort of hy­brid of as­sist move and su­per combo. Once you’ve helped out an NPC a few times, you’ll un­lock their Zowie for use in bat­tle, its cooldown timer short­ened by suc­cess­fully land­ing at­tacks. Some of the ear­li­est ac­qui­si­tions are the most use­ful: Rad’s floats KO high the air, in­vin­ci­ble, his fin­ger-gun mo­tions pro­duc­ing vol­leys of dam­ag­ing ord­nance. Mommy’s equiv­a­lent sees her rush on the screen with a charge punch, up­per­cut and ground slam. Oth­ers of­fer handy, or just weird, buffs – if you’ve ever wanted to be turned su­per-small by a rab­bit named Potato, you’re cov­ered.

When used in com­bi­na­tion with KO’s steadily ex­pand­ing moveset (a charge punch, a shoryuken, a ground pound), they re­veal a com­bat sys­tem of depth and flex­i­bil­ity, which is sur­pris­ing given how gen­tly kid-friendly the rest of the game is. Zowies can be ac­ti­vated at any time pro­vid­ing you’re not re­cov­er­ing from tak­ing a hit, and en­e­mies are po­litely stand­off­ish for the most part, at­tack­ing one or two at a time. They seem happy to let you ex­per­i­ment, the combo counter quickly reach­ing the dozens as you get in a few hits, knock them up in the air then away, call­ing in one friend to keep up the combo while you close in for your next as­sault. De­vel­oper Capy in­creases the chal­lenge not with harder hits or big­ger health bars, but with ir­ri­tants – small fly­ing ro­bots with spin­ning buz­z­saws, for in­stance – and the oc­ca­sional puz­zle (putting an en­emy on a high plat­form you can’t reach by jump­ing, say). It’s an ef­fec­tive blend whose only real dis­ap­point­ment is its boss bat­tles; each has only a hand­ful of at­tacks, and fights are over al­most apolo­get­i­cally quickly.

Bat­tles ac­count for around half the game, and un­less you’re a fan of the TV se­ries it’s much the bet­ter one. While the cast of char­ac­ters are an af­fa­ble bunch and fre­quently very funny, the things they ask you to do in or­der to help re­store their Pow cards to their for­mer glory are a dif­fer­ent story. The Plaza starts out small and doesn’t get much big­ger, and KO spends much of his day run­ning end­less laps of it look­ing for whichever mis­placed MacGuf­fin or wan­der­ing NPC he’s been asked to track down this time. Some of these fetch quests can feel la­bo­ri­ously drawn out, while oth­ers are padded fur­ther by paths be­ing cru­elly locked off; if some­one’s for­got­ten to un­lock a gate or load­ing-bay door, you’re forced to take the long way round, the game pun­ish­ing you for try­ing to be ef­fi­cient. It’s need­less pad­ding in a game of al­ready gen­er­ous length that’s at its best when you’re fight­ing or talk­ing to peo­ple. Sadly, you’ll spend a lit­tle too much of the game do­ing nei­ther.

Yet there are few mo­ments of ir­ri­ta­tion in a game which goes out of its way to be so like­able. KO is an easy fel­low to root for, and while you can the­o­ret­i­cally stomp through the main quest with­out help­ing out the var­i­ous wack­ily de­signed denizens of Lake­wood Plaza Turbo, you’ll be scup­per­ing your­self if you do. That’d mean miss­ing out on a beast of broc­coli made flesh that’s afraid of its own shadow; on a skele­ton whose low self-es­teem is hold­ing him back from his dream of be­ing a ma­gi­cian; on a sar­donic cashier with an eye on mu­si­cal star­dom; and on, for heaven’s sake, a rab­bit called Potato. He­roes, one and all, and all of them in need of your help. So long as a punch-up’s in­volved, you’ll be only too happy to oblige.

Bat­tles ac­count for around half the game, and un­less you’re a fan of the TV se­ries it’s much the bet­ter one

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