Developer: Zoe Mode

Platform: PSP

Release Date: May 2007

Crush is a game that centres entirely on a gimmick, but a very good gimmick nonetheless. This kind of thing has been seen before in games such as Super Paper Mario, in that you can switch between 2D and 3D perspectives in order to achieve goals in one dimension that could not have been achieved in the other. And while the gameplay is fairly solid, the interface, story and characters could do with a bit of polish to make it more enjoyable.

The Set Up:
Danny is a young man suffering from insomnia, so he goes to a specialist to find a cure. This questionable ‘professional’, Dr. Reuben, puts him in his C.R.U.S.H. (Cognitive Regression Utilizing pSychiatric Heuristics) machine in order to treat him. This basically translates into traversing your own mental plane (levels) to face your demons (cockroaches) and collect your lost marbles (…marbles).

The story is tacked on, clearly, an excuse to throw in the odd cut scene and inspire the player to keep on playing. The cut scenes play out like comic strips with voice overs. The overall story is as bland as you can imagine, with little in it to actually ‘hook’ you. And Danny, your main character, is one of the dullest protagonists in modern gaming. But then, what would you expect from someone who plays in their dressing gown and who’s ultimate goal is to get some sleep?

The only redeeming aspect of this part of the game is the odd bit of humour thrown in by Dr. Reuben. Although still fairly bland, he wields an obsession that Danny’s problems stem from his relationship with his mother, a solution psychiatrists are often believed to resort to very quickly, and will probably issue a giggle or two.

So minimalist are the story and character aspects of the game that they are hardly worth mentioning. The game itself is split into 40 levels, which increase in difficulty fairly rapidly. In each level, you will find anywhere from 20 to 60 lost marbles of varying colours and worth. Your goal is to collect as many of these as you can and then reach the exit. The exit only opens when you collect at least half of the marbles, so you are require to hunt down at least that many.

This might sound pretty straight forward, but there is a catch. Some platforms simply cannot be reached. Solution? Crush!
The perspective of the level can be rotated, not just left and right but from above also. You can then ‘crush’ and switch from 3D into 2D. By doing this, you can reach otherwise unreachable areas and kill enemies by dropping platforms on them. All the puzzles in the game rotate around this mechanic and also incorporates some other items and pick ups.

Items such as moving boulders and switches speak for themselves. There are also the occasional power-ups and handicaps that only become active in the 2D plane. These are called ‘thoughts’ and include an extra high jump, or a disability to switch into 3D at certain points. The game introduces these elements slowly, giving you a chance to get to grips with everything over a nice steady period of time.

The difficulty increases steadily, but rapidly. Divided into four themed sections, the first is very simplistic, functioning only to get you to grips with the basics. However, by the time you reach the second section, you will find yourself stuck on a few head-scratchers. Early levels take roughly three minutes. The last level will take between half an hour and an hour, depending on how well you’ve adapted to the puzzles.

The gameplay here is solid, but the experience is not a fluid one. While each and every challenge is different from the last, all the levels feel identical. After all, there is only so much that can be done with a bunch of blocks and platforms. Coupled with the less than gripping story, it isn’t a game that will have you playing from beginning to end in one sitting. Far more likely is that you will play one or two levels, switch to something else, then come back to it a day later.

Provided this is how you actually play the game, it should last a considerable length of time. Every level has a hidden jigsaw piece which, if collected, will unlock some artwork on the main menu. There is also a trophy to be found on each level which, if collected, will allow you to play the level again in Trophy Mode, which is basically a kind of time trial mode.

Admittedly, this probably is not a game that will hook you. Nor will it remain in your mind as being very memorable. However, the same can be said for crossword puzzles, sudoku and anagrams. It’s a straight forward puzzle game, and a well crafted one at that. Crush will keep you entertained for a little while when you’re in the mood for it. And then, once you’ve given yourself a break from it, you can pick it up and enjoy it again, trying some of the harder levels to really challenge you. Just don’t expect too much variety.

Rating: 6/10

“I’m getting one of those ‘I really shouldn’t be here’ vibes” – Danny

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • Much of the art and level designs for the game were inspired by people like Tim Burton, Mike Mignola and M.C. Escher, all noted surrealists…. as if there was anything surreal about giant cockroaches.
  • I was playing this game on the bus one day, with my headphones in. The lady sitting next to me started to watch. Because I was rotating the perspective so often and so fast, she eventually had to look away. She received a phone call and, clearly thinking I couldn’t hear her with headphones in, whispered to her friend “The guy sitting beside me is trying to make me sick!”

This game is kind of like:

  • A Rubiks Cube, plain and simple


  • Trying really hard to remember the name of that actor from that film that came up briefly in conversation three hours ago, finally remembering it and feeling enormously satisfied, even though it is no longer relevant (and, many would argue, never was).
Published in: on April 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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