The perfect blend of parody and homage to growing up nerdy – OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes Review [PS4]
January has been a cold month… outside of Los Angeles. Anyway, in terms of movies, television, and gaming, it has been pretty quiet- erm, cold. All the best stuff was from last year. That is, until OK K.O! Let’s Play Heroes released last week. Developed by Capy Games and published by Cartoon Network, OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes is a questing game with an RPG level up system and a side-scrolling brawler fighting system. The game is based on the show, created by Ian Jones-Quartey, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. Like the show, you follow KO on his quest to become the greatest super hero ever with the help of your loving mother, best-friends/co-workers Enid and Radicles (Rad), under the guidance/employment of the greatest hero ever, Mr. Gar, and the rest of the Heroes and characters that inhabit Lakewood Plaza Turbo. I’ve spoken on this game quite a bit, so here’s a better preface from my first impressions from E3 2017.
The game’s story revolves around the release of new holographic POW Cards, which now have the Powie Zowie ability that teleports the hero on the card to the wielder of the card. Powie Zowies send the sales of POW Cards through the roof, and that’s when Lord Boxman steps in takes over POW Cards. Lord Boxman was always the majority shareholder and silent partner, so it makes complete and total sense. After taking control, Lord Boxman resets all POW Card levels to 0, causing wide-spread panic through the community. This happens right after KO finally gets his POW Card. However, KO is a level 0 so his POW card was pretty much unaffected. And like his POW Card level, his enthusiasm and spirit are unaffected, and KO is determined to restore everyone’s levels as well as increase his own. This is accomplished by collecting a character’s POW card and helping them with tasks. These tasks range from watching finding a lyricist for Enid’s track to taking down all the Boxmore Robots in the plaza. Each completed task restores some of a character’s level and fills their Powie Zowie Meter. Once the character’s Powie Zowie meter is filled, all their tasks are complete and you can now summon that character in battle. You pretty much repeat the process daily, until you restore all the main characters’ levels.
It is a pretty standard set up for a Questing RPG, but the storyline and characters keep it from getting stale and keeps player thoroughly engaged. KO’s gung-ho attitude and complete admiration of his peers is a bit corny but since it is truly earnest which keeps you rooting for him. It’s very reflective of the spirit of Goku and Naruto, and is especially apparent in how inhumanly dedicated they are to their dreams. Also, in how naive, and sometimes a bit dumb, KO can be. The overarching story, and silly yet perfectly complimentary side-quests keep players engaged, laughing, and compelled to succeed.
But a good story is usually not worth following if there isn’t good gameplay to accompany it, and OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes has that in spades. The main aspect of the game involved the player taking KO through the plaza to find items and complete quests. It’s fairly simple, and can be a little repetitive, as players pretty much use the d-pad or thumbstick to move and use a single button to collect items and interact with characters. However, despite being a simple activate mission, find item/complete task, return to mission activator process, each task is quirky and unique enough to always seem new. The combat system, on the other hand, is much more interactive. There is a single attack button, that combos based on repetition, or activates other skills depending on how long you hold down the button, and varies attacks based on the direction you are pressing. It’s a very simple combat system, however, the variations of combos you can pull off are seemingly endless. You can smash your opponents up, down, and around, in any combination. Plus, there are the unique Powie Zowies from all the different POW cards you’ve collected. It is fast paced and can quickly swing from a player being an unstoppable combo machine to a flying punching bag. It’s extremely addicting and will have players running around the plaza looking for Random Boxmore Boxes to pick a fight.
The great story and gameplay are tied together by the incredible mechanics of the game. OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes’ art style, much like it is in the show, radiates joy. The game look funs even before even playing it. Then take into account the completely polished gameplay, there is no feeling of not being in control or losing control of the character in any of the different game modes. It feels precise without feeling overly precise like a fighting game. You don’t have to study frame rates to know when you can or can’t switch your combo. If you want to toss an opponent into the air, then down into the ground, you can do so exactly when you want too. The look and feel of the game are flawless.
In addition, the content of the game is perfectly woven into it. The game is based off the show, and if you’re a fan of the show you will unquestionably love the game. That being said, the way the show pays homage to great anime, hero, and nerd content, the game also does the same for gaming. KO’s binder is a perfect embodiment of what it was like to have a Trapper Keeper as a kid. You would have your pocket of supplies, then your front page of personal representation, then your card sleeves, then your homework. It hits that nostalgia and relatability perfectly. Having to take your hand to pick up cards and move them to different spaces in your binder is almost as gratifying as it is in real life. The POW Card Machine adds to that feeling, by having you drop coins to purchase a POW Card Pack. It is a truly amazing and fulfilling simulation of the card collecting experience.
Lastly, being able to fully explore Lakewood Plaza Turbo is fan service at its best. Being able to run through Gar’s Bodega, break boards at KO’s Mom’s Dojo, or seeing the Boxmore corporation from the top of the plaza is in every sense of the word, awesome. Every detail in this game, be it item, character line, or story, beautifully ties into the show, parodies nerd culture, or pays homage to it. It strikes to perfect balance of respecting the culture and playfully calling out some of the sillier aspects of fandom without condescending or insulting.
OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes sets the bar high for games this year. While admittingly simple compared to some grand launch titles, the polish and detail in this game far exceed the levels found in many larger scale games. The story is concise, the side quests are integrated without being necessary, the gameplay is flawlessly fluid, and everything about the game contributes to the engagement, enjoyment, and IP. The last thing I want to mention is the POW Card Machine Codes. If you watch the show, you might have noticed there are strange symbols randomly in the episode like this:
These codes are used to unlock special cards/items from the POW Card Machine. It not only brings back memories of inputting codes into games back on like SNES and Sega Genesis, it’s a brilliant way to combine the different mediums of enjoying OK K.O.!. It just shows how much thought and care went into the game and makes it easily understandable to how great the game is. My OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes review gets a 10/10.