Attack Of The Karens

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Attack Of The Karens (Nintendo Switch) – Review

Over time names can morph to have additional meanings. Nigel; no friends, plain Jane, Johns, and the most recent one to join our vernacular, ‘Karen’. For those not aware of what Karen’s additional meaning is, it typically refers to someone who is perceived as entitled through excessive demanding. ‘Attack of the Karens’ is a two-dimensional, side-scrolling, retro, bullet hell, shoot ‘em-up, with rogue-lite elements. This sounds like a lot of genres packed into one game, but developer Studio Primitive along with Flynns Arcade have brought this incredibly competent game to the Nintendo Switch.

Attack of the Karens begins with an alien pathogen arriving on Earth. Upon arrival, the pathogen seeks out and attaches itself to four spoilt women, Cassie, Jordan, Marva, and Tiffany. The pathogen mutates the women into cyborgs and allows them the capability to command a robot army. As the saying goes “Absolute power, corrupts absolutely”, so as you can guess the four women begin to take over the city taking everything, they believe they’re entitled to. You are the Harbinger and pilot of the Manager X-15 with the assistance of your intelligence officer Amanda. Together you battle against the Karens to save the city from their entitlement.

As stated above, a lot of genres have been packed into Attack of the Karens, and the execution is flawless. The rogue-lite elements are immediate, the four Karens are randomised as to which order you will challenge them. Each Karen comes with four levels of difficulty, so as an example randomly challenging Tiffany first, will be very different to challenging her if she is selected as the fourth boss battle.

There are also six stages, Farm, Bayside, Downtown, Suburbs, Tunnels, and Main Street and each is also randomly selected. Each stage offers not only a different background, but different enemies, different enemy attack patterns, and different obstacles to overcome. As you shoot and destroy various enemies whilst dodging their attacks, every destroyed target will drop energy. This energy is also your stage progression.

Once the bar is halfway filled, you will encounter a mini-boss. Once the bar is full a Karen will appear, and the boss battle will begin. The Karens’ health is the energy bar you fill. The Karen will enter various stages of attack when you have reduced the bar by a quarter, with the most significant change when reaching halfway. As the challenge ramps up you will be able to increase the X-15’s survivability through random buffs you earn by gaining experience from destroying enemies.

The random buff will cycle through three choices, once you have chosen which buff you want sustained fire on the buff will select it. Upon your defeat though, all your experience and buffs will be gone, but don’t worry because you will also be able to collect modules during the game. Collected modules are a currency you can use to purchase permanent upgrades for the X-15.

The permanent upgrades are needed to reach the final stages of Attack of the Karens, but you also have the option to further hinder or aid your experience through modifiers. The modifiers come in two types, ‘Kurses’ and ‘Kushions’.

Kurses will make things more difficult, but more modules will drop with the more Kurses you add. Kushions are the opposite, making it easier while reducing the number of modules dropped. This addition to the options of gameplay makes for a level of replayability on a game that already has a strong, just-one-more-run vibe.

Attack of the Karens is graphically presented in a pixilated retro theme. With mauve and olive colourings matching that of the Gameboy era, strong nostalgic feelings are present for any gamer who played similar shoot ’em-up games during that period. The options also have a CRT filter if you want to dial up the old-school theme to 100.

The music and sound effects also lean hard into the retro style. Much like the graphics, the eight-bit tunes and sounds are deeply reminiscent of the Gameboy era, which further adds to the nostalgia. Amanda and the Karens are all voice-acted which adds a delightful level to the story. Thankfully, the boss expositions can be skipped as hearing them repeatedly with each run would be rather annoying.

Attack of the Karens though full of genres is a perfect example if you put time and precision into the development of a game you will have an exceptional and functional product. The retro aesthetic of visuals and sound make for a perfect trip down memory lane for those who owned a Gameboy. The challenge on offer with the replayability options, and the addictive one-more-run gameplay make Attack of the Karens highly enjoyable.

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The Good

  • High level of replayability
  • Perfect retro visuals and sounds
  • Balanced upgrades and modifiers
  • Addictive one-more-run gameplay
  • Exceptional blend of multiple genres
  • Smartly implemented roguelite elements

The Bad

  • Nothing

Written by: Ashley Barnett-Cosgrove


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