OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes is a Cartoon Network game based on a Cartoon Network show that, until this very game, I hadn’t heard of or experienced in any capacity. Cartoon Network has had a pretty odd approach to churning out IPs and their companion games in recent years, leaning in hard on their big titles (Adventure Time, Steven Universe) and sort of mildly kicking around others (Gumball, Uncle grandpa). So I figured that anything C.N., deemed worthy of publication onto consoles would be decent enough for a few hours of my time. Surprisingly, it took quite a bit more out of my schedule than I realized, and even managed to keep my attention while a new Pokemon game hit the Switch. Impressive!
K.O. is a young boy living in a world that’s literally swarming with heroes. Everyone who’s anyone has a Pow Card, which is like a certified trading card that can be altered on the fly as a hero does good deeds, grows stronger and levels up. K.O.’s biggest wish is to have his own Pow Card so he can be a hero like all his coworkers, friends, and even his mother (who runs the hero dojo). The game’s premise revolves around the creation of new Holofoil Pow Cards, which have the ability to summon the heroes on the cards to the card’s location. Naturally, this was meant to be gimmicky and fun and help out other heroes, but, when it turns out the evil Lord Boxman is a silent majority shareholder in the card company, things go awry as every hero’s level is reset. K.O., ever supportive of his heroes, sets out to return everyone in Lakewood Plaza Turbo to their former glory, and, just maybe, find out what kind of hero he is as well.
The best way I can describe OK K.O.! is like an RPG with training wheels and clear channels. Touted as an action adventure, the main premise of the game is K.O. following a linear path to the next “mission” in which he has to help someone else. Starting out with “keep an eye on my van” and “find a gif for Dendy”, the missions build in critical importance to things like “rescue everyone from Boxman” and “become the hero you were meant to be.” In the course of these missions, you’re peppered with constant combat fights with robots that Lord Boxman sends your way, as well as some good side banter with characters and a personal quest to get a whole bunch of Pow Cards in a desperate attempt to see yourself in that foil packaging. Even though there isn’t any real leveling or grinding as you might expect in an RPG, this is a good chance for kids and fans of the show to see how segmented, mission driven experiences push a story forward and ultimately lead towards a greater reveal and plot.
In this aspect, one of cute narration and control, I think the game succeeds wildly. I knew nothing of the show coming into the game, but, without too much exposition or monologuing, I was able to grasp the core concepts, understand the character dynamics and relationships, and get invested in K.O. as things moved forward. K.O.’s notebook acts as a constant reminder of where you’re going when you get a little astray, but, thankfully, the limited scope of locations you can travel keep players from getting too far off the reservation. There are some secrets to find and side action to discover, but, for the most part, things are corralled and channeled to move forward in a singular direction. Maybe not great for people who want more of an open world approach, but phenomenal for folks who want to take this on as an extension of the show, maybe as an immersive, elongated episode.
Mechanically, OK K.O.! performs reasonably well. There’s no problems with frame rate, animation or install size, everything being pretty spot on with a delivery from a large studio like Cartoon Network. The combat aspect of the game, which is a massive part of it all, is fairly spiffy: despite only having one button, you really get into the uppercuts, low kicks, butt slams and fairly robust comboing system while also doing dodge rolls and aerial twists. The Powie-Zowie, which are unlockable assist attacks from other heroes, also have a good amount of versatility and fun to them. Finding out which ones best assist your fighting style and how you approach the different robots and bosses is important, because the game does NOT hold your hand much here. I was shocked to see that I could, realistically, lose the first couple of fights if I didn’t get my bearings rather fast. The robots don’t really wait their turns and will assault you in waves that can easily rack up damage multiplied upon you if you’re not nimble. You also have to suspend some common gaming rules to make things work: for example, you can simply dodge past the giant spike wall that the first “boss” of the game uses against you. I did a huge amount of damage to myself trying to jump over it before I realized it was possible to “dodge” it, despite it literally taking up the whole floor area.
Where the game falters, though, is replayability, and I think that’s important to note for parents and adult fans of the show. OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes makes sure to seamlessly integrate autosave into the game, taking away that burdensome remembrance to find save points or hit the correct buttons when you’re moving between missions. This also means there’s only one direction – forward – and there isn’t really a looking back when it comes to the game. And, when all is said and done and you’ve defeated Lord Boxman and made Lakewood Plaza Turbo an awesome place for heroes once more, you really don’t have a ton of incentive to load the game up and do all those hours over again. Sure, there might be some things you missed, some combos of Powie Zowies you didn’t use enough or items worth buying that you forgot to grab, but there isn’t a single branching instance that makes you go “alright, we gotta do that again and see what’s different.” For children who are both into the show and into the game play, it’s not a bad thing, and could be great: I know my kids prefer to rewatch what they like than constantly try new stuff. But, for the adults who pick up this game, please know that there’s a one-way story line ahead: no branches to alter what might or might not be.
As for the presentation of it all, if you like the show (based on the clips I saw on YouTube), you’ll love the way everything looks and sounds. All the voice cast from the show appear to do talent for their various roles, and the cut scenes looks like they could have been lifted straight out of an episode. The actual game play aesthetic is pretty close as well, clearly a video game interpretation of the show but still authentic and strong enough to not look like hammered hell. I take the recent Nickelodeon Kart Racer as a prime example of how to ruin what characters SHOULD look like despite the main studio being involved, and Cartoon Network did a fantastic job of having a great team make OK K.O.! look faithful and great to the show.
All in all, it’s a fun time: OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes is engrossing, a bit hand-holding but perfect for the target audience. Just a reminder: you’ll get what you get and that’s damn well it. Don’t expect more and you won’t be disappointed.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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