Crawlco Block Knockers from Cosmi Kankei was first released in 2019 on PC, followed by a console port by Eastasiasoft towards the end of 2020, so chances are you may have already come across this delightful lewd puzzler. It also put in an appearance in our list of the best saucy games for Switch.
But with the recent release of a lovely physical version from FunBox Media, which comes with a fantastic soundtrack CD from Opus Science Collective, I thought it worth shining a light on this game again, because it really is a ton of fun — and most definitely a worthy successor to the games it’s paying homage to.
Developer Cosmi Kankei’s stated goal with Crawlco Block Knockers was to evoke the feeling of smoky Japanese arcades from the ’90s — and specifically the cheeky, naughty arcade games of the era such as Kaneko’s Gals Panic and Mitchell Corporation’s Gonta the Diver series, better known as Lady Killer here in the west.
At the same time, though, Crawlco Block Knockers was never intended to be a clone of either of these games. Instead, it was simply intended to pay homage to the overall vibe of titles like this — and in that regard, it’s succeeded admirably.
In Crawlco Block Knockers, you play the role of a green lizard-like thing who has just joined the titular company in its warehouse division. Your job is to get the various coloured boxes that appear over time ready for shipping by arranging them into neat groups of three of more like-coloured blocks. When you achieve this, the matching, touching blocks disappear and part of the stage’s floor is replaced with clear blocks. Rather peculiarly, the more clear blocks you reveal, the more you discover that there are some scantily clad ladies in provocative poses hidden beneath the warehouse floor — and even more strangely, you appear to be the only one who notices these.
Don’t complain at the perks of the job, however, because you’ll be working hard for that glimpse of tiddy. Each stage in Crawlco Block Knockers requires you to either completely uncover a silhouette of the lady lurking in the background, or simply reveal a particular portion of the complete backdrop. Achieving the former awards you a star, while the latter simply allows you to move on to the next stage. Stars allow you to bypass boss fights, which occur every few levels, but are otherwise simply an indication of your overall mastery of the stages.
In order to clear the stages, you’re able to move the blocks around in a few ways. Firstly, you can kick them, which sends them sliding in the direction you kicked, and they don’t stop until they hit something — be it block, outer wall or clear block. Yes, those clear blocks can get in your way if you’re not careful — rather than just matching blocks wildly, you’ll want to make sure you always have enough room to manoeuvre.
If the kick isn’t quite right for your given situation, you can also grab a block and pull it one tile at a time, or alternatively vault over it and kick it out behind you; the latter effectively acts as a kick in the opposite direction, but does require clear space both in front of and behind the block to use.
Completing some of the levels is challenge enough through the combination of these simple mechanics and the arrangement of the silhouette and level elements, but Crawlco Block Knockers can optionally kick the challenge up a notch with the addition of enemies. These take various forms and are immediately fatal to the touch — to make matters worse, some of them shoot bullets at you too.
Thankfully, you can defeat enemies by squishing them with a block; if you splat them against a wall or a clear block, they’ll detonate any blocks and bare floor around them, revealing more clear blocks, while if you squish them between two blocks in the middle of the playfield they’ll simply be defeated without making a mess. With these mechanics in mind, you’ll need to take care not to defeat enemies in places that will create inconvenient clear blocks; on the flip side, you can also use enemy detonations to fill in holes you might have otherwise blocked off for yourself.
Note that I say the inclusion of enemies is optional; in a pleasantly inclusive move, Crawlco Block Knockers allows you to turn off the enemies altogether without penalty, so if you’d rather play the game as a straightforward puzzler without arcadey peril involved, you absolutely can do — and the “star” mechanic even allows you to skip the challenging boss fights if you so desire, so long as you cleared enough preceding stages perfectly.
Those boss fights are worth taking a crack at at least once or twice though, because they’re wonderfully designed. Each battle unfolds over several phases, with the boss making use of various learnable moves which you need to learn to avoid or counter. Your attacks are limited to simply kicking blocks, but the blocks can also be used defensively — they’ll block bullet-style assaults from the boss, for example.
The boss fights are tricky, but never feel unfair — and the same goes for the enemies that are included in the main stages if you choose them to be. They can be exceedingly frustrating at times, yes — particularly as more types are introduced as you progress through the levels — but their simple, predictable movement patterns and clear audio-visual cues mean that if they do take you out, you never feel like you’ve been cheated by the game; it’s always your own fault for not paying attention or being careless.
Crawlco Block Knockers’ solid gameplay is complemented by some lovely pixel art and an absolutely banging soundtrack by OSC that really nails the ’90s feel. The lovely ladies you’re uncovering eschew the anime-inspired art style you might expect from a game like this in favour of a more western look, obviously inspired by comics and pin-up photography. This, in itself, pays homage to some of the lewd Japanese arcade games of the period; early entries in the aforementioned Gals Panic and Gonta the Diver series made use of more realistic looking artwork rather than going full-on anime — though Gals Panic in particular did embrace the anime aesthetic from its later installments.
If you’re yet to play Crawlco Block Knockers, now’s a great time to add it to your collection. The affordable physical release from FunBox Media features saucier in-game artwork than the digitally downloadable Switch version on the eShop, much like the company’s similar release for Waifu Uncovered a while back — plus you’ll be grateful for that soundtrack CD the next time you feel like heading outside with some banging tunes to motivate you in the summer heat.
It’s silly, sexy fun that is the perfect game to enjoy in the summer months — particularly if you have any sort of rose-tinted nostalgia for the ’90s. So what are you waiting for? There are ladies to uncov– I mean, boxes to pack!
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