Crawlco Block Knockers
Developer: CosmiKankei | Publisher: CosmiKankei | Release Date: 2019 | Genre: Action / Casual / Indie | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam
Anyone old enough to have frequented arcades during the 1990s will remember that many of them had a couple of eroge titles like Gals Panic tucked away somewhere. Usually, they were confined to the “adult” section of the arcade next to the slot machines or being closely guarded by eagle-eyed arcade attendants. To make matters worse, even when we managed to sneak in a game or two during our teenage years, we never got very far due to the fact that unscrupulous arcade owners tended to crank up the difficulty settings. These days, there are virtually endless lewd games flooding the market, with most of them offering the bare minimum of gameplay to justify the explicit images that they peddle. It has gotten to a point where most users on Steam has either filtered out these types of games or barely glance at them anymore. Unfortunately, this also means that the occasional gem like Crawlco Block Knockers doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves.
Crawlco Block Knockers is a match 3 action/puzzle game that rewards players with lewd images for clearing levels. This description is probably enough to scare away most players, but it is honestly much better than it sounds. The game is tied together with a flimsy storyline that sees your character, who appears to be some sort of lizard, working at a factory. Your job is to stack boxes for shipping, but somehow matching three or more boxes of the same color causes them to vanish and reveal part of an image on the floor. These images are all lewd in nature, which provides plenty of motivation for your character to work, much to the delight of his cigar-chomping boss. However, players anticipating the game to be a walk in the park like the other match 3 titles that are currently flooding the market are in for a surprise.
Crawlco Block Knockers is divided into eight levels, each featuring a different girl. Each level has three stages, each of which features the girl in a greater state of undress. The developers have definitely drawn inspiration from games like Gals Panic, but drew the line at t&a, so don’t expect anything too explicit from the images. However, if the nudity is still too much to bear, the game also features “modesty” settings, which allows you to hide all the naughty bits behind stars. Alternatively, you can just dispense with the lewd content completely and obscure the entire images, which allows you to focus on the puzzles without having to glance over your shoulder to see if your boss, partner, or whoever you are worried about seeing you play this type of game, is in the area. However, we quite like the visual style of the game and the drawings of the girls perfectly capture the sleazy vibe that those nineties games had.
What surprised us the most about Crawlco Block Knockers is just how addictive the game actually is. While many of the lewd puzzle games that are currently on the market would be pointless without the nudity, CBK is still a brilliant title even with everything toned down. The gameplay will feel familiar to fans of classics, such as Sokoban and Pengu, and actually requires real skill if you want to do well. Each level is set in a factory and you are shown the silhouette of a girl on the floor. It is your task to arrange blocks in such a way that you uncover the whole silhouette, which is easier said than done. Blocks are constantly appearing on the screen, which means you have to quickly deal with them before you run out of space. It is also possible to mess up and make it impossible to move blocks to certain parts of the level if you are not careful, so being able to plan ahead is also important. The blocks that you match must touch either the border of the stage or the walls that were created by previously matched blocks too. While your little lizard character can jump up and over these walls, all the blocks that you move can only move around the warehouse floor, which means things become more complicated as you reveal more of the image.
As if all of this wasn’t challenging enough you also have to deal with enemies that swarm the levels. You’ll need to either avoid them or use your blocks to smash them. The second option is the most satisfying one, but destroying enemies with a block causes an explosion that reveals all the tiles underneath it. This is great for your score and quickly uncovering more of the image, but can make it impossible to uncover the whole image if you are not careful. In addition, the enemies all have different movement patterns to deal with and some even take multiple hits before they die or shoot bullets in your direction. Finally, some of the later levels contain other hazards to deal with, such as unmovable blocks on the warehouse floor and spinning spike balls that must be avoided. The good news is that if you prefer a pure puzzle experience, then you can disable the enemies without incurring any penalties. This also makes it much easier to achieve a “Perfect” clear, which means you have uncovered the entire image or a “Super Perfect” clear, which is uncovering the entire image and nothing else on the level. Incidentally, achieving a perfect clear is the only way to unlock images of the girls for the gallery and you also receive a star as a reward for your efforts.
The stars that you earn in CBK isn’t just for show either. Instead, you can use them to bypass the three bosses that lurk in the game. This is great for puzzle fans who want to stick to the puzzle aspect of the game instead of the action parts, but for everyone else, we strongly recommend taking on the bosses. All of them feel like they were ripped straight from a nineties arcade game and beating them is a rush. During these boss fights the goal is to hurl your boxes at the weak-spots of the boss while they do their best to annihilate you. Along with the three bosses, there is also a final boss and this one really gave us a run for our money but defeating it was extremely satisfying.
CBK can be played using either a mouse, keyboard or controller, although we personally prefer the latter. When controlling your lizard, you have two ways of moving around the blocks to where you need them to be. The first is to kick the boxes, which is the fastest as they go flying in a straight line until they hit an obstacle. You can also grab a box and kick it backwards if you need it to go in the opposite direction. Then there is the more sedate option of grabbing a box and pulling it. This is slower, but you have greater control over where the box ends up. Boxes cannot be pushed and you need enough space around you for pulling or kicking, so make sure to plan accordingly. The last thing you want is to run out of space for block matches before clearing the stage as this means instant death along with the loss of all your lives. The game does allow you to make some adjustments to the controls, such as enabling auto run and allowing you to only tap once to grab and hold on to boxes, but we found the default settings to be perfectly adequate. It is also great to see that CBK offers a wide range of color settings for the blocks, so even color-blind players can join in on the fun.
Last, but certainly not the least, CBK also features a great soundtrack that perfectly complements the retro aesthetic of the game. The music was created by OSC (Opus Science Collective), a synthwave artist who nailed the late 80s to early 90s sound while still using modern production methods to keep things polished. The original soundtrack, which features all 11 songs, is available as DLC on Steam and comes highly recommended. Fans can also check out OSC on Bandcamp to hear more of their incredible tunes.
CBK is selling for less than what a trip to the arcade would have cost in the nineties, so if you are a fan of action/puzzle games, then there really is no excuse not to pick this one up. It definitely deserves more attention because it is so much better than what is currently available in the genre. Not only is the game extremely addictive, but the whole retro visual style and vaporwave soundtrack is really well done. Even the lewd content is pretty cool, although as we mentioned earlier, disabling the pictures still leaves you with a game that is fun to play. Overall, there is not much that we can fault about CBK. It kept us busy for quite a while as we not only completed all the levels and defeated all the bosses, but it also hooked us enough to go for most of the achievements. It’s a pity that CBK is a single-player only affair as having a second player along for the ride could have made things even more frantic. The game can also be extremely challenging at times but still kept us coming back for more.