By Ronald Gordon
Is the latest move from TV cartoon mayhem to videogame artfulness a hit or a miss? OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes, which I played on the Xbox One, is an action-adventure arcade style beat ‘em up game based on the Cartoon Network show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. And it works.
The show’s art style is unique and you can see that the writers have fun with it. Sometimes it can be cartoon-like and silly, then it can be detailed and serious. The writing is something the creators have fun with in many ways. The characters even pronounce words differently like the way they say “Videos Game” instead of “Video Games.” It’s silly wordplay like that which makes you really appreciate the show’s creators. The show was originally based on a successful 2013 pilot called “Lakewood Plaza Turbo” that Cartoon Network aired that came into full view for fans in August, 2017. From then on, it only took a few months for the game to later come out this past January, and both have been doing well since. (OK K.O. was developed by Capybara Games and is available on the Xbox One, PS4, and Microsoft windows.)
The plot surrounds the Pow Card Factory which has started making new Holofoil Pow Cards that allow the person with said card to summon a hero from anywhere to help them out. These cards come with their hero’s special ability, called a Powie Zowie (It’ twee, I know, but it gets weirder). Every hero’s Powie Zowie is different and can be used differently in different situations. Some heroes offer attacks that help clear out enemies and others offer powerups and buffs to help tip the scales for the person in need. One of my personal favorites is Silver Spark’s Powie Zowie which is just her delivering a hard combo to the enemy. It works really well in taking out most of the opponents.
However, not long after Holofoil cards are introduced, the evil Lord Boxman had bought out the Pow Card factory and proceeded to reset every single hero’s levels back to zero. As you can imagine, this was devastating to nearly every hero who had a level….well, except for K.O., of course. Since he didn’t have a level, but he still had a Pow Card, K.O. saw what was happening to everyone’s levels and took matters into his own hands. From that moment on you get to play as K.O. and find ways to help the other heroes that are scattering around Lakewood Plaza Turbo, a shopping plaza built to sell heroic items to heroic people. This task comes with some heavy opposition as Boxman isn’t going to back down easily. So be prepared to fight hard whenever you take on missions.
This game is so much fun, especially for someone like me who loves to play arcade style beat ‘em ups! Plus the fact that you get to collect Pow Cards yourself makes it feel like you’re a kid again, someone who’s spending your hard earned allowance on Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards. I especially love the art style; it reminds me of those shorts that Cartoon Network used to play that were only a couple seconds long but could show so many characters doing so many random things. The music is also wonderfully orchestrated as it can change from lovely background music to retro, arcade-like beats. There’s even a loop of K.O. himself beatboxing when you open the menu.
I love how this game relates to the show in so many ways. The developers even took the time to work with the entire original cast. Even the little tidbits that are added to the game get to me — like how all of the achievements you get are ENTHUSIASTICALLY CAPITALIZED or how the character dialogue doesn’t match up with the mouth movement (in some cases), just like the good ol’ days. This game is also extremely challenging as the battles require a lot of focus and reaction time. If you’re not careful you might lose an entire day playing, like I have. Ultimately, it’s for anyone who wants a bit of old school hipness mixed with modern sensibility in their gaming lives.
Ronald Gordon is our newest New York Videogame Critics Circle intern via a partnership with the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx. This is his first story for the Critics Circle.