Nearly five years ago, when everybody was trashing the PSP for having no games worth playing, CRUSH was frequently brought up as a neat little gem that introduced a new mechanic that worked well enough. It certainly wasn't a system seller (unless you ask Aaron Linde circa 2007), but few who tried it had many negative things to say.
With heavy gameplay emphasis on the distinction between two- and three-dimensional levels, it isn't too surprising to see CRUSH3D (pronounced "crushed") on the 3DS. What is a bit surprising is how little was added to this update over the original.
Developer: Zoë Mode
Released: March 9, 2012
MSRP: $19.99 (GameStop exclusive)
For those who overlooked CRUSH the first time around (and are too lazy to read the review linked above), it is a puzzle-platformer whose premise was really unique and pretty awesome in 2007. The protagonist Danny is strapped into a strange machine called C.R.U.S.H. that allows him to enter his dreams in a fully lucid state, which lets him work through his subconscious problems. The awesome part is that each area in his dreams is a small, three-dimensional set of platforms, but he has the ability to "crush" the dimensions, turning the environment two-dimensional and back again at will.
The most basic problem involves a faraway platform in the background. After aligning the camera to a particular side and crushing down to two dimensions, that platform is brought just next to Danny, easily reachable by a short hop. Later on, the puzzles become more complex and more challenging, with moving parts, switches, breakaway platforms, and more.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because the idea isn't quite as unique as it was five years ago. The recently released FEZ employs a very similar gameplay hook, and it does so on a much grander scale. It's worth noting that Zoë Mode hasn't been working on CRUSH3D continuously since 2007 like Phil Fish has been with FEZ, but nevertheless, what's offered in CRUSH3D feels a bit paltry in comparison.
One thing to keep in mind is that CRUSH3D is a remake, not a sequel. Where there were 40 levels in the original game, there are likewise 40 levels in this updated version, and they are functionally identical. However, the fresh coat of paint on the new version does work to its benefit.
Overall, the art design is brighter and more stylized. Danny was already a stylized humanoid before, but in CRUSH3D, he's simplified even further, taking on an almost Mii-like appearance. While that in itself isn't necessarily a benefit, the more brightly colored levels make it easier to navigate and to formulate plans. Additionally, in the same way that the stereoscopic 3D visuals helped navigation in Pushmo, getting a sense of depth is more natural in CRUSH3D than it was in the original CRUSH.
Outside of the new visual presentation, the additions to this version are neat but are mostly cosmetic. By completing certain objectives, like finishing every level in a set or collecting certain pickups, the player unlocks different night robes for Danny to wear. Players can also collect concept art by finding a book in each level. While these change nothing about the gameplay, they are things that weren't there before.
Another new element is the StreetPass functionality, which will probably never realize its potential. In each level, the player can choose to place a gift, with the value of the gift increasing with the number of marbles collected in that level. Upon StreetPassing somebody else with CRUSH3D, these gifts are sent to the precise location specified in the level. Sending and receiving these gifts (or simply buying points using Play Coins) just allows access to a different set of clothing for Danny to wear, but the idea that a skilled player could tantalize another with a seemingly out-of-reach gift seems really interesting. Unfortunately, with so few people playing, it's unlikely that you'll receive a gift outside of a game convention, and even then, they are normally just lazily placed near the exit.
There's really not much more to say about CRUSH3D. It's still a good puzzle-platformer, although its concept isn't nearly as mind-blowing today as it was in 2007. Those who enjoyed it then may want to give this a pass, since it introduces so little new stuff, but those who missed it the first time around could definitely find some enjoyment in this smart little title.