Attack of the Karens (Switch) Review

Attack of the Karens is a satirical take on the popular “Karen” meme put into a surprisingly entertaining 2D scrolling shooter.

You play as the harbinger, a tiny ship with infinite bullets that (mostly) shoots to the right. While the screen can be filled with bullets at times, this isn’t a bullet hell. Instead, this is a slower paced and more methodical shmup designed around picking your shots, increasing your skill as a player, and enhancing the stats of your ship RPG-style.

For a five-dollar game, there is a lot of detail, depth, and care put into this tiny package. The first point that needs to be mentioned is the difficulty and pacing. If you want to just jump right in and blast everything in sight, sure, no problem. But if you are struggling with the difficulty, there are “kurses” and “kushions” available in the options menu. Kurses make the game more difficult whereas kushions provide the player with extra buffs and stat increases. Whether these optional settings are activated or not, they do not alter the story or unlocks, essentially letting the player play with complete freedom. It is a brilliant design, one that respects the player’s time and skill, and one that I wish more shooters would implement. 

Beyond activating buffs and debuffs from the menu, the player can collect chips which can be spent to unlock permanent upgrades. Unlocking all of them will definitely take some time but worry not. Grinding isn’t necessary. I was able to clear the story after a few attempts as I learned the game’s mechanics and earned some stat enhancements. A single run only takes fifteen minutes but there is still plenty to unlock if so inclined. Unfortunately, there is no leaderboard score system in place which restricts replay value.

Each stage is based around a Karen, but these bosses are not fought when the end of the stage is reached. Instead, once enough of the small Karens are defeated (along with Live/Laugh/Love signs), then the stage ending boss can be fought which is mapped by the meter on the side of the screen. There are four bosses total, with a surprise fifth and final boss, and each plays entirely differently. There isn’t much variety with all the little Karens that are defeated, so there is some repetition, but it is perfectly acceptable for runs that last 15-minutes.  

Visually, the game looks like an original Gameboy game inserted into a Super Gameboy. And to be clear, this is not a knock on the visuals at all because they are nicely animated, and the pixel style is quality stuff. Even more surprising, the chiptuney soundtrack is excellent. For a five-dollar game, there is no reason the soundtrack should be this good. Further, the voice acting is also well done. Granted, it gets a little repetitive after a few playthroughs since it doesn’t change but what is here sounds great.

Attack of the Karens is a little gem of a shooter. Speaking honestly, I think this digital download shortchanges itself because it is worth more than five bucks. Even without leaderboards, there is tremendous value here. And before anyone gets offended, the Karenisms never reach truly obnoxious levels as it pokes fun at the ridiculousness of it all with gentle humor. Instead of going hard on the Karenness, it instead puts the focus right where it should be – on the gameplay.

SCORE: 8/10

Also Try: Dead End City

Don’t Forget About: the Steel Empire port on Switch

Also Play: the Waifu shooters

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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