STAFF REVIEW of OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes (Xbox One)

Monday, February 12, 2018.
by Chad Goodmurphy

OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes Box art During its more than twenty-five years in existence, the Cartoon Network has enjoyed great success thanks to some very well received content and a little bit of luck. They struck gold with shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo, and then followed them up with successful standouts like Ben 10, Steven Universe, Adventure Time and Rick and Morty. Now that some of its more popular shows have run their course, the channel is searching for its next big hit, and may have found one with OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes.

For those who’ve never heard of it (and if so, you’d fall into the same boat as I did before I took on this review), OK K.O. Let’s Be Heroes is an animated comedy series that was created by Ian Jones-Quartey, who worked on Steven Universe and Adventure Time. In it, a young boy named K.O. attempts to become the greatest hero of all-time within a world that is saturated with unique and colourful heroes. His boss, his mom, and all of his friends just so happen to be of that ilk, as do all of the people and creatures that he interacts with on a daily basis.

Developed in conjunction with the TV show is OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes; a beat ‘em up styled video game that also incorporates RPG elements. It’s just recently hit the Xbox One through digital distribution, and is also available on platformes. Of course, as we are an Xbox centric site, the Xbox One version is the basis for this review.

Like the show, Let’s Play Heroes takes place in Lakewood Plaza Turbo, a typical strip mall plaza that is owned, staffed, and populated by heroes. K.O. himself just so happens to be an employee at the main attraction – a convenience store that is referred to as a bodega in an attempt to be more fancy. There, he works for Mr. Gar, a ferociously muscled badass who feels like he’s been ripped right out of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Mr. Gar isn’t the only colourful character who works at the bodega full time though, as an alien and a carefree teenage girl also staff the place on a daily basis.

In this unique universe, heroes pride themselves on the levels that appear on their POW cards, which are collectible trading cards featuring the denizens of Lakewood Plaza Turbo and its neighbouring area. Said cards feature prominent photos of the heroes, as well as their individual stats and hero levels, and it’s one of these cards of his own that K.O. so desperately wants.

At the beginning of this game, K.O. shows up for work on a special day, that being the release date of new, holographic versions of the POW cards. We’re talking about pieces of collectible cardboard that can now summon their subjects into battle, or simply into the owner’s vicinity. Needless to say, this irks some heroes, who don’t want to be bothered by being teleported from one place to another without their consent or sort notice, but that’s not the crux of this story. No, what ends up happening is that after our protagonist finally gets his own card (which isn’t much of a spoiler since it happens at the beginning of the campaign), evil Lord Boxman takes over the POW card factory and starts to wreak havoc.

What Boxman does is delete all of the heroes’ levels, dropping them back to zero. This, as you can surely understand, causes pandemonium to break out and personal crises to occur. Thus, K.O. is thrust into the spotlight by his good intentions, and takes on the task of helping his family and friends. How so? By completing quests and beating up Boxman’s robotic children, who share similar names like Darryl and Shannon. That’s how!

Over the course of what is a several hours-long game, players must control K.O. as he completes these quests and battles loads of robots. Sometimes said battles are random, but others can be ignored through a system where boxes appear in the plaza and one presses the Y button to instigate a fight. Oftentimes the plaza itself will come under attack, forcing K.O. into action, or fights will occur as part of quests, with those including some robotic boss battles that aren’t terribly difficult.

Combat takes place in a two-dimensional space, albeit one that factors height into its equation. As such, some engagements will force you to jump onto multiple platforms, or use uppercut specials to knock foes off of their high perches. Said uppercut is one of K.O.’s more advanced moves, which are unlocked through experience as he levels up after fighting. These fights are helpful for levelling, but not altogether necessary, given that K.O.’s basic fighting abilities are often sufficient. You can also avoid being hit by double jumping or pressing down on the A button to do an evasive move, which can prevent a lot of damage.

Powie-Zowies (power moves) can be used quite often, and only take a bit of time to charge up through punching, dodging, and general combat aspects like those. Examples of these include Mr. Gar’s epic body slam, Radicles’ ability to shoot blue energy bullets at enemies, and Enid’s powerful kicks. Every character you help, and level up, can provide his or her own special move, though the ones that you’ll have at your disposal will likely differ from what your friends will unlock. In fact, since some cards are hidden behind special codes (which were added into the show, in one-per-episode fashion), and packs seem to be randomized, it’s hard to unlock them all. Hell, 0% of Xbox One players have done so, according to the achievement app.

Keep in mind that you can easily complete the game without these special codes, and can do so by just purchasing and unlocking regular cards, as well as the stat boosters that are sold in the bodega and elsewhere, like a food truck that specializes in burritos (Yep, I just said that). Sometimes you’ll also have to eat these Mexican delicacies in order to become smaller or burn yourself, as certain quests will require it.

The game's combat is never too involved, nor is it usually that hard outside of a few random difficulty spikes. What is odd about it though, is the fact that the game rewards you for knocking computer chips out of your robotic foes. Why is that odd? Well, the only way to actually do this is to let your opponents hit you in a specific manner, which then leads to them showboating and leaving themselves open to attack. This can reward you with credits (after selling the chips to the robot named Dendy), but it takes important health away for minimal pocket change.

What hurts this game most however, isn’t its' somewhat basic combat system, but its' repetition in general. Not only does fighting the same robots over and over again get tedious, but most of the included quests boil down to little more than fetch quests. Thus, most of the game is spent walking from one part of the plaza to another, in order to talk to different characters and pick up what they’ve requested. Needless to say, it gets boring after a while, and makes the game feel overlong, which is a shame because it’s obvious that quite a bit of thought, effort, and care went into recreating the show for interactive purposes.

Unlike the TV series, which has a hand drawn aesthetic, OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes features its own unique looking take on the characters and the plaza that they inhabit. It’s very colourful, albeit a more exaggerated and cartoony take on the source material, but it’s one that works very well and shows that developer Capybara Games cared about what it was working with. Couple this with exaggerated sound effects, humorous and witty writing, and the show’s talented voice cast, and you have something that was made with fans in mind.

It’s just a shame though, because for a game that was made with so much love, care, and attention to detail, OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes isn’t better and more varied than it is. Unfortunately, more care was put into the presentation side of things than the actual gameplay, and the result is an experience that suffers from pacing issues due to its repetitive blend of fetch quests and relatively simplistic combat.

If you’re a fan of the show, then you’ll most likely really appreciate OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes’ attention to detail, and will be able to overlook its faults. This is, first and foremost, a game for fans, while those of us who don’t have anything invested in the TV series it’s based on aren’t likely to get the same things out of it.

Overall: 5.9 / 10
Gameplay: 5.2 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.1 / 10


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