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OK K.O.! looks like a cartoon and plays like an arcade classic

The path to becoming a hero is different for everyone. For K.O., the child star of Capy’s upcoming OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes, that path begins with picking up rainbow dinosaur poop.

The action-adventure brawler is based on Cartoon Network’s TV show of the same name, which premiered this past summer. In the show almost everyone is a hero, and every hero—and villain—is granted a Pow Card, an interactive collectible which shows a hero’s stats and levels up as that hero grows. K.O., a kid with a heart of gold and a power level of 0.1, aspires to be one of the strongest heroes in the world.

Dan Vader, a veteran of the Super Time Force team who’s taken on lead writing and design for Let’s Play Heroes, told me that collecting those cards is the key to success. There is a new kind of Pow Card on the scene, the 'Holofoil Edition', which can bring to life any hero depicted on it. Players explore the world of Lakewood Plaza Turbo, a strip mall for superheroes, collecting cards like these, accomplishing quests, and fighting bad guys.

"There’s an overall story that you’ll play from start to finish," Vader says, "but every quest is its own story with a three-act structure." In that way, each quest is like its own episode of the show. The plot of my quest involved finding a baby dinosaur by following the trail of rainbow crunch cereal that had "gone right through it" which meant exploring the plaza to find colorful poop. 

The game’s hubs are seamless spaces which are cut into "shots" that look like they’re right from the cartoon. K.O. moves through spaces that appear flat and yet offer literal depth thanks to copious use of shifting scale and perspective. It’s almost like playing Paper Mario, except there are some neat camera tricks that make the whole game look like an episode of the show.

During my search for dino poop I was challenged to a fight by Darryl and Shannon, two of Lord Boxman’s incompetent robots. In the show, Boxman is an evil scientist who unleashes boxes full of his robotic children to fight our heroes in his attempts to destroy the plaza. This means that players can expect to fight groups of Darryls, Shannons, and Raymonds on a regular basis. 

K.O. is exceptionally nimble, with high jumps, quick dashes, and ground dodges reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog’s spin attack. While his barrage of punches and kicks aren’t bad, he’s not very strong, and if you really want to win you’ll need to rely on Pow Cards. The cards you collect become Powie Zowies, summoned heroes that give K.O. a serious battle advantage. 

These summons are an absolute blast to use. Heroes like K.O.’s legendary boss Mr. Gar, his coworkers Rad and Enid, and his beloved mommy (formerly level 8 hero Silver Spark) all made appearances when I played. I went from throwing an uppercut to calling in Rad for an aerial laser barrage. 

Every summon feels special, and though they have cooldowns I never found myself without a card to play. Vader says his favorite Powie Zowie is Red Action, one of the ‘cool teens in the alley’. "You have to collaborate with her," he says. "She sets you up so you can come through and finish strong."

I was honestly surprised a game based on a cartoon had so much depth. Even in this early quest, Boxman’s drones offered up a fight. Balance was a key concern for Capy from the beginning—Vader explained he has two kids of his own, both fans of the show, and that he’s been testing the game’s battle scenes on them. "If they can beat it," he said, "anyone can."

Vader went on to explain that Cartoon Network reached out to Capy on this project because of their affinity for Capy’s work, and the team’s experience making Saturday morning-inspired games like Super Time Force shines through. It's vivid and downright funny. Whether I was picking up rainbow poop or helping Enid become popular on "the social medias," I laughed the whole way through. 

The snappy writing and colorful art may be reminiscent of the show, but it was done in-house at Capy. The show’s creative team, led by Steven Universe’s Ian Jones-Quartey and Regular Show’s Toby Jones, helped craft a vision for the game but encouraged Capy to find their own footing. Vader talks about it like a passion project, and from my time with the game it absolutely feels like a Capy production.

"K.O.’s tirelessly happy and always trying to help people," Vader tells me. "He’s always striving, he’s just a kid who wants to get better. This game is about helping him get there. K.O.’s exuberance and eternal optimism will hopefully appeal to everyone." 

Cartoon Network says the game should be ready for players this fall.