A shoulder surfer would describe Super Crate Box [$.99] as a mess, a pixelated mash of vivid colors and explosions wrapped in a whirlwind of erratic movement, 8-bit sound, and some decidedly bizarre character design. They'd be right. Super Crate Box is a mess, but it owns its fast-moving arcade chaos, and deftly brings you along for the ride.

You don't even realize that you embraced it until it's an hour later and you hate that godforsaken disc launcher with the passion of many angry men. What renders you helpless has a lot to do with its infinite, looping structure and purity of play. This is a minimalist, throwback-style game that wants you to do one thing: capture crates for a high score. The hooks are in its constituent parts, which seamlessly blend into a cacophony of arcade action surrounding this pure purpose of play. It becomes hypnotizing, fast.

Your typical game goes a little something like this: on a flat plane, enemies tumble out of an invisible pipe in the opening of a level, and you, while they fall, capture crates and defeat those enemies with the weapons you pick up from said crates. If an enemy hits the lava pit because you didn't kill it, it pops back out of the top at double speed and joins the ever-growing conga line of even more brainless enemies.

Avoidance is key, but so is aggression. Each crate contains a new weapon that forces you to strategize distance versus time at the drop of a hat. As you play, you'll unlock even more weapons, all of which do something completely different and are often devastating. Laser guns, mines, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, the shotgun are just a taste of what's on the roster. Each has its own special kind of spread and weaknesses. Some even have big negatives, like the disc launcher, which is a single fire gun that has bullets that bounce back at you.

Whatever pacing you're imagining, multiply that by 11 and you'll get a sense of the raw madness that is Super Crate Box. One second you're charging up a laser gun to rid a platform of its occupants, the next you're dropping down to another level and using a mine in order to put a stop-gap on that side so you have enough free-time to grab a crate on another platform. The frenzy absorbs you, and the raw precision becomes a second nature thing. People say it's a mess, and it is, but I'm OK with it. I welcome all of it.

As you play, you'll steadily unlock more guns and more characters to use in the game. It's your usual incentive program, but where it departs is in the fact that it also rewards failure. If you die 500 times, for example, you'll unlock Super Meat Boy as a character. Simply gathering crates, no matter how many times you die along the way, is also a valid way to unlock stuff.

I'm surprised by how much I dig the virtual controls; Halfbot and Vlambeer did a heck of a job translating the action to the touchscreen and then making it feel as natural, and as split-second responsive as the game's PC and Mac counterparts. On iPhone, the two-button UI is a tad too bulky. On iPad, the game feels at home. Regardless, these guys nailed it. This game feels good.

Another place you can play is on the iCade. Currently, the controls have been flip-flopped inadvertently in an update, but when they're working ideally, they feel great. I think this is the way to play since you get that tactile feedback.

People in general are really responding to Super Crate Box, and our community digs it. I love it. Its high-octane play married with its no-frills, arcade game design keeps me collecting crates and blasting enemies into delightful little pieces of monster. I'm thinking it'll grab you, too.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • Jensen_G

    I'm not generally an arcade game junkie, but the game is so well-tuned, the weapons so fun and well-balanced, and the action so deliciously frenetic that I am all-in on it. 

    By the way, the article doesn't mention it, but you can download a free Mac/PC version to try it out at supercratebox.com .  I love playing most on my iPad though (it's playable on iPhone, but everything feels a bit too tiny and the virtual buttons obscure the action).

  • Anonymous

    Not even one mention of Muffin Knight?

    • Anonymous

      Muffin Knight was based off of this game and I think they did mention MuffinKnight in an earlier post unless it was a different review or whathaveyou xD

    • Anonymous

      Why?

    • shawnmak

      Why mention a clone in the game's review? 'Super Crate Box is great. By the way, it got cloned.'

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C3M43ULPQO3YYWVN24D2RA52TM J Dizzy

    screw muffin knight. they deserve no mention.

  • Vicente Ragal

    Great review. I would love an option for rearrange buttons. Besides that, awesome game.

    • Anonymous

      They already added that.

      • Vicente Ragal

        You can switch the A & B buttons around, but not place them wherever you want.

      • Anonymous

        What game has that? lol

      • http://twitter.com/kaydiv Kalo Division

        Robot Wants Kitten, for one example. Possibly also that Space Miner game, though I don't remember for sure.

      • Vicente Ragal

        Muffin Knight, Modern Combat 1, 2 and 3, Space Miner, etc.

      • Anonymous

        Lots of games! lol

      • Anonymous

        ID games: Wolfstein 3D, Doom...

      • Anonymous

        Street Fighter IV

    • allan lee

      I too would love this.

  • http://twitter.com/sidetwo sidetwo

    I'm seriously addicted to this game.  I love the fast paced natured of it - especially the quick restarts once you die.  It really makes you want to start your next play straight away.

    I've been playing it on the iPhone and haven't really had any problems with the controls. Heck, not long ago I managed to break the 100 crate mark with my score of 105! Pretty proud of that, if I say so myself ;)

    Anyway great review, Brad.  Anyone still on the fence after this should just take the plunge, trust me you won't regret it!

  • Anonymous

    "On iPhone, the two-button UI is a tad too bulky."

    This really drove me nuts at first, but eventually you get over it. It's pretty rare now that I die because I couldn't see what was under my thumbs. I bought this game because TA was praising it so much even before the review. Very glad I did. It's insanely addictive and probably the most difficult game I've played since TMNT on the NES. I really, really suck though.

    • http://twitter.com/woodesh matthew wood

      good god tmnt was so hard but so good.

  • http://twitter.com/Micahsa Micah Peterson

    Man my thumbs hurt from so much frantic pressing.  I have loathed all other virtual controls and barely tolerate the controls for Mage Gauntlet, but this game simply nailed it.  Death comes often but it tosses you back into the meat grinder so quickly that you're already five crates deep before you're able to get upset at your death.  It reminds me of VVVVVV for PC in that sense, which was short, but great.

    The three levels and three modes are great, but I'd love to see even more levels in the future. 

    Meanwhile, I'm doing my part to get to 40 million crates... but first to ice my thumbs.

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelMatzat Michael Matzat

    As much as i like this game, it needs tactile buttons. It´s just no touch game even if they tried their best. I just don´t like dieing because i jump if i want to shoot or walk in the wrong direction, especialy with a game like this.
    I also want a horizontal iCade.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, the writer should add this to the end. I love both versions but obviously due to the controls the desktop version is better. And for the price of free, there's no reason to not download it. It works as a great lite version.

  • http://twitter.com/quinusmaximus Bill Quine

    Five stars is nonsense. Everywhere people are complaining about the hitbox of the character, the sloppy controls, etc. The controls really are awful. Here's an example: try running while holding down the fire button when you have the flamethrower. You'll do this stupid little hop dance. This is a repeatable way to ensure these little hops, but they happen all the time when holding other weapons, and can seriously screw up an otherwise good run. All sorts of buggy behaviors like these make the game an exercise in frustration.

    • http://twitter.com/MichaelMatzat Michael Matzat

      You hop around because your running on fire. But otherwise i agree, this issent a 5 star app due to the controles.

      • Anonymous

        I agree about the poor hit detection, but the controls...I don't know how they could be any better.  What makes this game's controls worse than any other game with virtual buttons?  For any game with more than one virtual button, there's always a guy complaining about the controls.  It's unnatural and I don't blame you for not being able to do it, but it's not the game's fault.  I beat SCB before the update and never had a problem with the controls.  

      • shawnmak

        I couldn't have said it any better.
        Except for the whole "already beat SCB" thing. I thought the controls were fine before, but either way the game is hard- as it should be.

      • Anonymous

        Lol, that stood out to me as well.  How do you "beat SCB"?

        The controls/game actually did need some tweaking before the update.  You couldn't jump and shoot properly, for instance (there would be a brief pause).  But it's only apparent to those who played a lot of the original desktop version.  Someone playing SCB for the first time on iOS may think the pause was intended.

        Luckily, this was fixed in version 1.1 (as Vlambeer mentions in the update notes).

    • http://twitter.com/iggymontonero Iggy

      Totally agree. Any NES game is so much better controlled because of physical buttons. This game should have never been released with touch controls.
      What's wrong with the reviewers? Are they all 15 year olds and haven't played proper games?

      • Anonymous

        Given the size of Brad's biceps, I'd watch out for who you are calling a 15 year old. ;-)

      • Anonymous

        These kinds of comments make no sense at all. There are not physical buttons on smartphones and tablets, so you can't use them in games. Get over it. If you want physical buttons, get something else.

      • shawnmak

        THANK YOU.

      • http://twitter.com/iggymontonero Iggy

        That was my point. This game is almost fully about the precision of the controls, thus the fact that it was released on a device without buttons does not make sense at all. Okay, I understand that they would earn more money by selling it on AppStore than on PlayStation Network, but 5 star review, really?

    • Anonymous

      I Agree 100%.  Thank you.

    • guest314159

      The flamethrower hop-dance is a feature, not a bug (like the fact that the disc gun kills you). You can't stand on flames! The "hop-dance" occurs on the PC version too.

  • shawnmak

    I know, I know, it wouldn't be the same- but I still want a "casual" mode like Halfbot did with The Blocks Cometh.

  • http://lectiblog.blogspot.com/ lecti

    Disc-gun AND double pistols.  Damn them to hell.

  • http://www.jshamblin.com J.Shamblin

    Awesome game! I only wish when I fall down a fire pit, I come back twice as fast.

  • http://twitter.com/jinchoung jin choung

    is this game the same thing as muffin knight?  it LOOKS pretty much the same...

    • Anonymous

      Muffin Knight is a cheap rip-off. The original Super Crate Box is a PC-game, released back in 2010.

      • http://twitter.com/jinchoung jin choung

        oh ok.  cuz they both looked so much alike in terms of mechanics that one either had to come from the other or both were drawing on another older game that i wasn't aware of.  thanks for the info.

  • Baby Landlord

    Great game, great controls, great review! My girlfriend is getting tired of me shouting expletives as I play this in bed at 3am...

  • http://twitter.com/ImANinjah The Real Ninja

    Excellent review! 5 stars well deserved! And why the hate for Disc Gun? I love it :D But I can't stand pistols... -.-

  • http://twitter.com/BeRad_Ent Bradley Johnson

    Vlambeer's rad, they're pumping out great game after great game

  • Anonymous

    After reading all the great reviews, I plunked down $ for it and have regretted it ever since.  It is Just Not Fun, IMO.  After grabbing five boxes, the critters start flying at you in such numbers that I found it impossible to avoid them.  Game over. . .game over. . .game over. . .so many times. . .and every time you grab a box your weapon changes, so it's impossible to plot a strategy. . .if I want this much frustration I'll just take the subway.  Fail.

    • http://twitter.com/TylaUrrrlez TylaUrrrlez

      You're doing it wrong.

    • http://twitter.com/MattRix MattRix

      The strategy is really about what you do with the different weapons. If you get a bad gun (disc/flamethrower/pistol), you should quickly run to another crate and get a better gun. If you get a good gun (minigun/revolver/laser) you should use it to wipe out all the baddies before getting another crate. 

      There's a tremendous amount of nuance and depth in how each weapon can be used. An example: mines can be used defensively. If it's early in the game, I'll go to the bottom of the screen and place a bunch of mines on both sides of the fire pit to act as a final live of defence against red baddies. 

Super Crate Box Reviewed by Brad Nicholson on . Rating: 5