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Upon first glance, Super Crate Box seems singularly focused on the speedy collection of the titular objects, which pop up randomly on the screen one at a time until nabbed. Each bumps up your top-of-screen tally, but also equips you with a surprise weapon: a laser rifle, rocket launcher, or mines, among other possibilities. However, as you nimbly leap from platform to platform trying to boost your score, the screen fills with anxious alien foes, all aiming to nix your pixel protagonist.
It's impressively – and almost obnoxiously – difficult at first, and the lack of a tutorial and tips don't help. Most folks struggle to hit double digits for some time, and many cite the occasionally sticky virtual controls for every little folly. It's OK: I've been there too. Super Crate Box isn't impossibly hard, just easily misunderstood.
Luckily, the game's initially imperceptible layer of strategy reveals itself through your constant and inevitable failure, and that initial urge to zip around and play as quickly as possible subsides. Once you realize that success in Super Crate Box ultimately relies on skillful enemy management and weapon use, the pace slows down, the little details stand out, and the game's true brilliance shines through.
Regardless of your skill or leaderboard ranking, Super Crate Box commands attention. Even amidst rapid-fire deaths, I still logged hundreds of attempts due to that compulsion to one-up my high scores and those of my pals. It's an unrivaled App Store obsession, and the charming aesthetics and simple mechanics make it feel like an unearthed relic from a bygone era. That said, the virtual buttons do falter every so often, and the experience is slightly diminished on iPhone where thumbs can obscure the action.
The bottom line. Super Crate Box is one of the most wickedly enthralling high-score chases on any platform.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 3.1 or later
Compulsive high-score chase keeps you playing through hundreds of deaths. Incredible sense of personal progression as you learn tactics and strategies. Charming lo-fi aesthetics.
Occasional issues with the virtual buttons. Thumbs can obscure action on iPhone.