Developer: Zoe Mode
Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only
Crush was a highly entertaining, ingeniously designed puzzle platformer which joined the likes of Exit and Lumines in the pantheon of top quality PlayStation Portable puzzle games. If ever there was a game ideally suited to take advantage of the 3D abilities of the 3DS, then Crush was it. The port was announced and scheduled to be released midway through 2011, however it was delayed for reasons unbeknownst to us. Thankfully, with the console enjoying increased sales, now is the perfect time for releasing clever, playable fare that make use of the wonderful possibilities of the handheld device. We have complained about the multitude of ports on the 3DS, but can this 3D remake of a four year old game improve upon the original?
STORY: Danny is a highly troubled young man, with a multitude of psychiatric issues, including insomnia and repressed memories. Rather than asking his doctor to make a referral to his local community mental health team, the frazzled teenager places his faith in an unhinged mad scientist by the name of Doctor Doccorson. The Doc has invented a device that allows one to explore their subconscious, and plans to use it to help Danny sort his head out. Predictably, the plan goes a little pear-shaped, and Danny ends up trapped inside his own mind, with no option other than to confront his innermost fears and come out of this terrifying journey into the human psyche by collecting marbles – a rather unsubtle allusion to his sanity. Thankfully, when putting Doccerson’s bonkers device to use, Danny gained a special ability to shift and toy with his surroundings…
GRAPHICS: The box screams “WITH ANOTHER DIMENSION” at you and, as we expected, Crush3D looks very nice indeed, with the stereoscopic 3D being put to the best use this side of Super Mario 3D Land to give the levels depth and make the puzzles even more effective. The game looks crisp and colourful – a darn sight better than the PSP original – and there is a good variety of levels on display, becoming increasingly more bizarre and obstacle laden the further you reach inside Danny’s mind. The story is progressed along with barely-animated cutscenes, which are perfectly adequate and reminded me a little of the Professor Layton series in terms of the art style.
SOUND: Zoe Mode aren’t going to win any awards for the auditory side of Crush3D. There are decent, functional sound effects and some trip-hoppy background music, but that, I am afraid, is about it.
GAMEPLAY: The highly original premise of Crush3D is that in order to progress through each of the 50 standalone, self-contained levels, you have to collect enough marbles to proceed, but in order to do this, you need to use Danny’s ability to “crush”, i.e. alter the landscape from 3D to 2D and vice versa. Hitting the crush button can have all manner of outcomes however, it may bring a distant marble or platform within your reach, or help create a set of steps to ascend, you can also use it to wipe out enemies. Think of the way you can flip views in the excellent Wii platformer Super Paper Mario and you are about halfway there. Crush3D will baffle your skull as you try to figure out the best way to negotiate a level effectively.
The further you go into the game, the more obstacles and trickery the game will throw at you, bringing into the mix types of terrain that cannot be conventionally “crushed”, moveable objects, switches and of course nasty bad guys. You can choose between a selection of fixed camera angles using the D pad, so looking around to decide which way you turn or from what angle you are going to crush is always a simple click away with the camera very seldom being a hindrance.
At times you may run into a proverbial brick wall, so thankfully there is a handy hint system which will give you a gentle modicum of advice on how to proceed, something that felt like a bit of gentle handholding rather than simply giving the game away in one fell swoop. If you then decide enough is enough and you do want the ful-on reveal, you can do so but only after surrendering a marble; it is an excellent system.
There is a Streetpass feature, which allows you to swap customised levels with other users of the game, but I would have liked to have seen more customization available. This is one game that would have benefitted a great deal from a level design mode, and the Streetpass feature, in its current incarnation, simply allows you to place objects within existing stages after purchasing them for 3DS Play Coins.
LONGEVITY: There are a load of levels to get through, and as you might imagine it all gets rather hairy later on; this is a tricky game and not one that you will breeze through in an afternoon. Collecting marbles and finding all of the hidden trophies within each stage will allow you to unlock artwork and custom dressing gowns for Danny, and also unlock a more challenging version of each level, where you have to go against the clock, with a limited number of crushes.
VERDICT: Crush3D is a superb puzzle game, which I really enjoyed. It is a breath of fresh air and shows design that fully justifies the awards and plaudits the original game received back in 2007. Bear in mind, however, that Crush3D is essentially a straight remake of the PSP original with much prettier graphics, and enhancements made to the experience through excellent use of the 3D abilities of the 3DS. The additional content, the limited Spotpass functionality and the more difficult stages, is limited. This is undoubtedly the superior way to play Crush but owners of the original game should beware as, content wise at least, Crush3D is very similar and it is doubtful you would wish to own both.