Super Crate Box

Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where JT and Sam Jackson find the briefcase in Bret’s apartment? Jackson’s all like “does Marcellus Wallace look like a bitch?” and Bret’s like “nah man” and then Jackson shoots him in the shoulder for saying “what” one too many times. He double dared him, if you recall.

Anyway, Jackson’s waving that revolver around like a Christmas cracker and JT’s stood in the corner all like: “man, I’m just happy to be here.” Then Jackson spits out that wonderful speel about righteousness and whatnot while Bret’s pissing blood out of a puncture in his arm and JT’s like “man, I’m just happy to be here.”

And while all that’s going down there’s the curly-haired white boy hold up in the bathroom. He was taking a shit when JT and Jackson arrived and now he’s clutching a king-sized six-shooter primed for a devastating entry. He is The Man With The Plan.

The Man With The Plan’s all rattled but he knows well what needs doing. He knows precisely the order of events from here on out. He’s got it all mapped out, you see. He’s played it over and over in his head, brooded over each and every second. He kicks down the door. Steps into the room. Inhales deeply. Then guns them mob bitches down. Six rounds, two guys. That’s a hit-rate of 33% required for success. Then a quick sit down before dashing to catch the next flight out to anywhere. He is The Man With The Plan.

Back in the room, JT and Jackson have just put old blubbering Bret down as a cacophonous crescendo to Jackson’s harangue. Marvin’s whimpering in the corner. JT finally gets to say something. Then The Man With The Plan comes cannoning through the bathroom door. He takes his one step, then his deep breath.

So far so good, he thinks to himself.

BANG!

So far so good.

BANG!

So far so good.

BANG!

So far so good.

BANG!

So far so good.

BANG!

So far so good.

BANG!

He opens his eyes. Fuck! The Man With The Plan cannot believe it. He’s only gone and missed every damned shot. JT and Samuel can’t quite believe it either. They check each other for punctures and gore-geysers. Nothing. Meanwhile, The Man With The Plan is stood there clicking that impotent six-shooter. This was not part of the plan. He hadn’t planned for this. He no longer has a plan. He is The Man Without A Plan and he cannot operate beyond the basic motor function of pulling that limp-dick trigger. After a while, JT and Samuel gather their shit and shoot The Man Without A Plan some eleven times. He is The Man Without A Pulse.

When I play Super Crate Box, I am The Man With The Plan and then, all too quickly, The Man Without A Plan. That’s really the best way I can describe it. I know precisely what I need to do and exactly how I’m going to do it. I watch it all pan out successfully in advance. Collect crates. Kill critters. Notch badass leaderboard score. It’s so flippin’ easy.

And yet, without fail, something will go awry. I’ll mistime the simplest of leaps because I panicked at the first glimpse of a red demon or fall unchallenged into a pit of fire or get mauled by a little angry thing even though I’m the one wielding the goddamn katana sword. I’ll screw it all up, rue for a second and then start over. Again and again. And then again some more. It’s so breathless and immediate that there’s barely a moment to even contemplate tossing the iThing aside. You’re locked into this schizophrenic back and forth between misplaced optimism and fury, between being The Man With The Plan and The Man Without One.

Vlambeer – the people responsible for Crate Box – claim it harks back to the golden days of the arcade, when nothing mattered but a treasured spot on the leaderboard. This is true, and precise controls go a long way to making it so easy to sink hours into just three levels. But Crate Box thrives also on the mechanics that help contemporary multiplayer games hook players. “Only 45 more crates until the next weapon!” It imparts. Only. Only. Only. And look at that, a new high score!

11.

By the time it runs out of new toys – most of which aren’t much use but you’ll damn well keep playing to get them anyway because – it’s all too late. You’re hooked.

7/10

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