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OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Cartoon Network
Developer: Capybara Games
Release Date: Jan. 23, 2018


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PS4 Review - 'OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes'

by Cody Medellin on May 28, 2018 @ 6:15 a.m. PDT

Based on a Cartoon Network TV series, OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes is a mix of side-scrolling beat-'em-up action and adventure game. The evil Lord Boxman resets the card levels of every hero in Lakewood Plaza Turbo, and it's up to K.O. to help his friends and brawl down against Boxman's robot army.

One can argue that "Adventure Time" is responsible for the recent uptick in Western animated shows. Creator Pendleton Ward helped develop "Bravest Warriors," which quickly became big online, something that is only now as common as having a network TV hit. Storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar went on to create the mega-popular "Steven Universe." Writer Pat McHale did the acclaimed miniseries "Over the Garden Wall." Then there's Ian Jones-Quartey, another storyboard artist who went on to do "OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes," another of Cartoon Network's big hits. Wasting no time in the endeavor, Cartoon Network contracted indie studio Capybara Games to do a video game version of the series, titled OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes.

Fans of the series should be familiar with the setup, but for everyone else, the game takes place in a world where superheroes are a common thing. You play the role of K.O., a young boy who dreams of being a hero but currently works at a bodega in a strip mall where superheroes frequent. In this world, heroes have trading cards made of them, and while all of his friends have at least a level-one card, K.O. has no card at all. That changes soon enough, and while K.O. is horrified to learn that he starts with a level-zero card, that disappointment quickly goes away as he learns that every hero's levels have dropped to zero as well. Always the helpful soul, K.O. makes it his mission to help everyone get their levels back to normal while hopefully raising his own in the process.

Just about every trait the animated series has is faithfully reproduced in the game. Every character from K.O. to his friends — Dendy, Enid and Gar — are extremely likeable, and that also goes for the villains, even though they're supposed to be hated. For the most part, the writing is solid, with loads of good jokes spread out from beginning to end. Though it has one whole overarching storyline driving the game, the mini-adventures that happen throughout make it feel like you're binge watching a season without it being tiring. It's all helped out by performances from the original voice cast, so all of the characters and situations feel authentic. While the music doesn't come from the show, it carries the same feel-good vibe that makes the experience enjoyable.

What fans will find different about the game compared to the animated series is the graphics. Unlike other licensed games, which try to mimic the source material faithfully, the game throws away all of that in favor of a style that imagines what the series would look like in a Flash format instead of the hand-drawn style it currently employs. The style looks fine, but what really makes it work is that it retains the cartoon's expressive nature with loads of exaggerated poses and fully expressive faces. Hit an enemy, and the reactions are more than wild flinches, while K.O.'s conversation with everyone always comes with things like wide eyes, fat tears, or a more detailed adult face of courage. It's goofy but in a positive way, and it does a good job of giving itself an identity while remaining complementary to the source material.

Even if you aren't too familiar with the series, your initial thought is most likely that the game is a beat-'em-up. If so, you'd be partially right. K.O.'s battles consist of him fighting some of Lord Boxman's robots, including Darrell, Shannon and others from the series. Instead of having levels presented in a slanted side scroll, you're given single-screen areas with movement similar to a fighting game, minus the need for complicated controller inputs. You gain extra moves as you level up, but don't expect anything resembling the breadth of a pure fighting game. To make up for that, you can call on the heroes you've gathered in card form, so you can periodically call on the likes of Drupe to unleash vines on enemies or Enid to deliver flaming kicks. At the end of each battle, you get some XP and are given the chance to break a piñata for some stat boosts.

The fights can be quite fun since it takes some effort to beat up an enemy. There's some strategy involved as well, since simply walking up to a foe and punching them rarely works, so you have to vary your moves and get creative. At the same time, the long fights can be a chore once you have multiple enemies on-screen. This isn't usually too bad in most beat-'em-ups since you can call in a second player to help, but since this is only a single-player game, the moments when you can't call upon help can be a struggle.

When you aren't fighting, you're engaged in a very light adventure game. Don't expect to solve a multitude of puzzles, as none exist. The same goes for item hunting, as that's rarely used beyond the one side-quest where you're rescuing a hero trapped in a claw machine. Instead, you'll spending most of your time running around the plaza and talking to everyone. Most of the time, you'll engage them in conversation to talk to the next person in the chain or start a fight. Other times, you'll make dialogue choices to do the same thing, but with the added benefit of hearing the different dialogue.

Interestingly, the balance between adventure segments and fighting segments is split down the middle. You'll spend just as much time walking around the plaza chatting it up with every character you meet as you will beating up the seemingly endless hordes of Darrells that drop out of the sky. It never feels like the game is shortchanging action for story and vice versa, and in this way, it does a fine job of mimicking the flow of the show perhaps more than most other licensed titles would.

The biggest complaint that can be levied against the game is that it falls into repetition rather quickly. It only takes a few battles before you realize that you're fighting against the same robots all of the time — and with very little configuration differences when fighting their boss versions. The environments are also limited, so you're not going to see many places beyond the plaza, the Boxmore factory, and the card factory. Without that variety, the gameplay loop can be tiresome if you plan to play for long periods.

OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes is a game mostly meant for fans, but those who have never heard of the series can also get a kick out of it. The more relaxed method of storytelling works well to get newcomers interested in the cartoon series, and there's enough here to get them up to speed on each character's personalities. The fighting isn't deep, but it's still enjoyable if you don't mind that the battles against even low-level enemies can be quite lengthy. The same can be said for the adventure portion, which can be pretty shallow but still fun. This may not be a must-have title, but it's still worth checking out as an example of a fairly decent licensed title.

Score: 7.5/10

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