The last time I really paid attention to Cartoon Network was during the height of Regular Show, so I had zero connection to their 2017 hit OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. However, I was excited to check out the video game adaptation since developer Capybara Games quickly became one of the most talented indie developers due to titles like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Super Time Force Ultra. Called Let’s Play Heroes, the game adaptation has players attempting to get the titular K.O., a young boy living in a world of heroes, to fulfill his dream and finally earn a hero rating of his own.
While I didn’t have any predisposed liking of the characters or world, I was immediately impressed with how much personality was shown early on. The opening cutscene shows K.O.’s plight, as he helps an old man only to be made fun of for lacking an actual hero card. The poor kid can’t get any respect despite trying his best to be like his many role models. I was also shocked with how gorgeous OK K.O. was, as Capybara has done a tremendous job of making sure that the game matches the aesthetic of the show. It’s a true visual treat, and the production as a whole is quite top-notch as all of the main character dialogue is fully voiced and humorously written.
Very early on a core gameplay loop is established: K.O. checks on his mother (who just happens to be the greatest hero in the plaza), goes to work at the local bodega, and then some mischief occurs that involves some evil robots from the corporation across the street (this type of really great anti-corporate messaging makes me think that the kids will be all right). Each individual day of the game is like a mini-episode of the television show, as they each tell a light-hearted story that highlights the various characters. The writing really gets to shine here, as I instantly dug the cast of characters. From helping the muscle-obsessed alien, Rad, set a new box lifting record to helping K.O.’s single mother reconnect with an old friend, the game winds up dealing with a ton of different scenarios.
Be a Hero
Most of the game is spent exploring the relatively peaceful Lakewood Plaza, but there are robotic enemies that will show up and get up to no good. Let’s Play Heroes then switches to a 2D action game that still has plenty of style despite not looking quite as good as the exploration sequences. The combat feels good, as K.O. can uppercut enemies into the air and unleash some sweet looking combos, but the overall moves are pretty limited. There’s some further nuance introduced later in the game (as K.O. can unleash a special attack that sees a giant magical fist coming from his body), but it’s still always on the simple side.
One nice thing is how the game’s adventure and combat mixes together, as players are rewarded for collecting in-game hero cards and becoming friends with the various residents. By doing good deeds, players are rewarded with abilities called Powie Zowies, which are special attacks that feature other heroes temporary joining the battle. There’s a good amount of variety here, and it was a lot of fun getting to experiment with the various cards. I eventually settled on using two that I really liked (Rad and K.O.’s mother), but the layer of customization is really appreciated.
While the combat itself is pretty simplistic, there are some entertainingly designed battles. In particular, the last couple boss fights of the game are a real highlight of the experience. They also highlight the semi-unforgiving nature of Let’s Play Heroes. I only died a few times during the game, but it’s far from a cakewalk despite being a game aimed at kids. Players will definitely have to keep on their toes throughout, as even the easiest of enemies can do some solid demo if handled sloppily.
Be True to Yourself
Repetitive combat exchanges mixed with a limited move-set can make Let’s Play Heroes feel like a bit of a slog at times. Thankfully, the quest design has enough variety between pure combat and adventuring around the plaza that it never gets overly monotonous. Still, a more nuanced combat system is definitely a must in a sequel, or at least more enemy types to force the player to act differently.
The best moments are just getting to explore the world of OK K.O.!, and the story really shines because of it. After completing Let’s Play Heroes, I came to really like the cast of heroes, and actually want to check out the television show since the game manages to get a really good message across in a pretty goofy manner. The story is all about self betterment, and being a better friend to those you cherish. Who can’t get behind that?
OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes won’t end up on many year-end lists, but it should go down as an important title. It’s one that shows that licensed kids cartoon adaptations don’t have to be mediocre, and that they can be filled with the same charm as the television shows that made them beloved in the first place. Let’s Play Heroes is a success because of how respectful it is towards its source material, and is one of the few licensed games that feel like a true extension of its world rather than a hollow recreation.
OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes review code provided by publisher. Version 1.04 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.