Super Crate Box Review—Mario Bros. with Weapons


When PlayStation Mobile launched, one of the titles that always seemed to be mentioned was Super Crate Box. Yet looking at screens and hearing about the gameplay, it didn’t seem particularly interesting. Just picking up boxes? My first impressions weren’t much better, awful graphics and unforgiving gameplay. But I stuck with it and started having fun. Then I realized I had played something very much like this before, only not quite. It’s very close to being Mario Bros. from Nintendo, only with guns.

As an early arcade game, Mario Bros. is somewhat overlooked today, but it was very popular in its time. Mario (and his brother) are actually on their jobs as plumbers, down in the sewers, which were essentially three levels of platforms. Enemies would drop down from the top of the screen and it would be your job to destroy them, by first knocking them over from below, then going up and kicking them (as in the later Mario platformers). The level layout basically stayed the same, but as you progressed, the enemies were more numerous, faster, and nastier, resulting in very hectic and very fun gameplay, especially co-op.

I'm pretty sure a C-64 could do that.

I'm pretty sure a C-64 could do that.

Super Crate Box essentially takes that gameplay from Mario Bros. and distills it. Instead of having to knock over enemies, then touch them, you simply have to touch the crates, and you can simply shoot the enemies bothering you with a gun, or some sort of weapon, which changes every time you pick up a crate. As you unlock more and more weapons, this becomes a big deal as weapons behave differently. It’s also much faster paced, and the size of the playing field is much smaller. You don’t have a lot of room or margin for error.

The game is hard, and you die at lot (or at least I do), but the frustration factor is limited by the game starting over again immediately, as well as unlocking additional weapons every so many crates you get, period, not just within a given game. The weapons are added to the random assortment you draw from when you pick up a crate, and in a way, it’s almost not that helpful, since many of the unlocked weapons aren’t as good, or have a drawback, compared to the rocket launcher, which is one of the initial weapons.

For instance, there is a disc thrower which is powerful, but whose disc comes flying back at you. The flamethrower reduces your ability to jump, at least when you are walking over the flame. Mines can only indirectly kill, the katana has a short range, and so on. Still, the variety is impressive, and each weapon often has little details, like how if you use the machine gun you get moved back a little, thanks to recoil.

A ColecoVision might pull that off....

A ColecoVision might pull that off....

To beat a level, you simply need to pick up 10 crates, though that is easier said than done, at least until you get the hang of the game or a little luck (and have the crates appear on the lower part of the screen). There aren’t a lot of levels, only three, with not a lot of difference other than color. The real goal is to simply score as high as possible, which apparently can be in the thousands. Thirteen is the high for me.

Graphically, Super Crate Box could probably have been a Game Boy Color game. I think it must have started off as a Flash game. But it gets the job done, although it can actually be a little difficult to see enemies because they are drably colored. It does have nicely detailed animations, though, and the enemy deaths are often different; for instance, if you use a katana, they are sliced in half. Each weapon has a different sound effect, but the music is very repetitive.

The platform layout changes a bit.

The platform layout changes a bit.

Super Crate Box is one of those simple and addictive games that have made iOS so popular for gaming. It’s nice that it’s available on the Vita, letting you play with buttons, but at a cost of being thrice the price, $2.99 instead of 99 cents. It also doesn’t have any sort of network features. While it does have unlockables and keeps track of stats, it really doesn’t have a lot of depth to it. What it does, though, it does really, really well.


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6 Responses to “Super Crate Box Review—Mario Bros. with Weapons”
  1. Aaron Jean says:

    For one, you don’t “beat a level”. There are two more modes to unlock, though I haven’t figured out how to unlock ambush mode yet. Anyone? (I have 79 crates on STFM mode in the first stage, and 50+ in the other two. Something seems off)

    Second, the game costs $3.50 on Vita and $1.99 on iOS.

    Third, I don’t think the Mario Bros. resemblance is strong enough to warrant more than a passing mention. SCB’s focus is on weapons rather than jumping, and the scoring system is based on crates, not killing enemies(though you do a lot more of it). It feels very little like SMB Arcade to me.

    Fourth, this game is incredible and will haunt your dreams. It’s the most perfect pick-up-and-play mobile game ever created, and I’ve sunk over 20 hours into it. It’s worth your money, and it will kill your productivity. OK, that last part’s mostly my opinion, but I strongly adhere to it. :P If you have any doubts, the PC version is free.

  2. JeremyR says:

    Yeah, sorry if I was unclear, you simply unlock the next level when you get 10 crates, it keeps going.

    And doing a google search it says it launched at 99 cents, so I think my point stands, even if they raised the price. Considering the PC version is free (and the iOS version has apparently been free from time to time), I don’t see why they have to gouge on PSM especially as you are missing features like leaderboards.

    And I played a lot of Mario Bros as a kid on the C64. Personally, it reminds me of it a lot.

  3. O says:

    The resemblance to Mario Brothers (not to be confused with Super Mario Brothers) is pretty strong, now that you mention it.

  4. Nexus Prime says:

    I haven’t played the game myself, but even I can see how this relates to Mario Bros. Almost to the point that if I did try this I would try to knock the enemies from underneath.

  5. Aaron Jean says:

    Fair enough, but a review written a few days ago should be factually correct for the present time…

    On a related note, the Rami Ismael (part of Vlambeer’s two-man team) responded to some comments on the Playstation Blog, and they said that since Sony hasn’t implemented support for PSN leaderboards (or trophies) yet, they opted to wait for them to be added into PSM’s SDK rather make their own leaderboard system(like FuturLabs did). Here’s the quote in its entirety:

    “Leaderboards and Trophies are not currently part of the PSM development toolkit or SDK. We were contemplating adding them in for launch (we needed to hit the PSM launch date, so we had a really limited amount of time) – but instead we opted to focus on the core gameplay. Futurlabs implemented leaderboards of their own, we’re choosing to wait for Sony’s official solution. That way, your leaderboards and trophies will work the way they’re supposed to with your PSN-profile when those functions launch.”

    So there’s some good news on that front, and it seems they have plans to implement the features when Sony supports them, hopefully soon.

    The blog post(they also respond to pricing here as well):

  6. daniel says:

    act. marica

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