After getting my hands on Super Paper Mario, I started seeing 2D platformers differently, in that hey, I wonder what's behind that-there pile of blocks sort of way. I imagine I'm not the only one. Now that gamers raised on X and Y only are the ones making games, it's likely that we'll see a lot of screwing with 2D vs 3D in games to come, and Crush is the latest in that progression.
You might remember me crapping my pants over the first videos of Crush released about five months ago -- I am pleased to report that the pants-crapping was merited, indeed. If you've been considering the purchase of a PSP and looking for that one game to knock you off the fence, this may very well be it.
Hit the jump for more.
Despite my best efforts (those efforts being wishing really hard), the PSP doesn't yet have the most compelling library -- at least, not so much compared to its competitor, Nintendo's immortal DS Lite. It's difficult to explain why I love my PSP without saying anything that violates my warranty -- in the entirety of my library, only four PSP games aren't ports. This isn't to say that the games that are ports are bad or anything -- games like Power Stone and Street Fighter Alpha 3 fit quite well on my little misbegotten handheld. As for original killer apps, though, it's a bit sparse. Things are changing, though -- had I not been so foolhardy to buy a PSP at launch, Crush would've been the game to get me on board.
Unlike many DS games and a handful of standout PSP titles (Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops being one of them), Crush doesn't do anything that is particular to or representative of the platform it represents -- indeed, Crush could exist on any system, console or handheld alike. Where Crush succeeds, it does so due to its standout concept game play, art direction, and challenge. It's a puzzler the likes of which I've never played before.
Crush is all about Danny, an insomniac who carries a heavy burden of memories from his past. His aversion to traditional medicine leads him to Dr. Reuben, a mad scientist with an invention that might help Danny: a hypnosis-inducing helmet called C.R.U.S.H. In this state, Danny is to get his mind straightened out by working his way through dimension-bending puzzles, which if you think about it, is just like psychiatry as we know it today. Story of any sort seems parenthetical to the experience as a whole -- puzzlers rarely need 'em, after all -- but it certainly adds to the game. Cutscenes are illustrated in Crush's distinctive art style and shuffle Danny's saga along while the player negotiates the hazards of his cluttered mind.
In a lot of ways, Crush operates like a traditional, severely limited platformer. Levels, 40 in all, take place in one of four "theme" tilesets like the inner city and the seaside, with appropriate music and atmosphere to complete the picture. These levels operate as platforms suspended in the air built out of sharp, angular blocks that create the landscape that Danny must negotiate to clear his head. Danny can walk, run, and jump short distances, but that won't get him very far -- to advance, the player must "crush" the level's three dimensions, creating 2D from 3D. This part's complicated, so I'm going to dedicate another paragraph to it. I'll see you there.
Hi, glad you made it. Anyhow, movement of the camera -- not a fluid, smooth movement, but a strict and segmented selection of camera angles -- is paramount to the game flow of Crush, as the camera's angle on the action determines how the level will be "crushed". So, here's an example: let's say you're standing on a platform, and way in the distance -- away from the camera's perspective -- is an item to be collected. The item sits atop a plot of ground that has no connecting bridges, no obvious means of approach, but it is level with the platform you're currently standing on. By crushing, the world is made 2D and the two platforms become the same straight line across the screen. By moving to the item's location and uncrushing, Danny finds himself on the same distant platform -- this is the heart of Crush's gameplay.
reviewed by Aaron Linde