The key to Crush is that it's more than just switching the world from 3D to 2D, you will also need to use objects found in the levels in order to jump to high up areas, kill giant bugs and trigger weight-sensitive panels. As you progress through the game you will be introduced to more objects and have to figure out increasingly difficult puzzles, some of which will feel like there's no possible solution. But once you do figure out how to get from point A to point B you'll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment that you rarely get in video games these days. Even the early levels offer this sense of accomplishment, a feeling that is so addictive that it will keep you playing from start to finish.
But make no mistake about it; Crush is a devilishly difficult game. Part of the reason the game is so difficult is because it comes from a whole new perspective. I've never seen a game like this before, so retraining my mind to think about solving these puzzles takes a little work. It's also difficult because of the way the levels are laid out; the developers at Zoe Mode (which used to be part of Kuju Entertainment) have created levels that are both tricky and simple at the same time. Considering that each level has to work from several different angles (including an overhead perspective) it's absolutely mind boggling what these talented designers were able to accomplish. Simple screenshots don't do this game justice, you really have to see the game in action before you can understand how complicated the level designs are.
The game is split up into four different locations, each with their own special style and challenges. The first set of levels are all in the city, which is dark and gloomy. Once you get through those ten challenges you'll be swept away to the seaside, then the funfair and finally to the nursery. Each of these level groupings introduces a new concept, such as the infinitely thin blocks that appear invisible from certain angles, an alarm clock that will wake Danny up, and giant gears that you can use to move parts of the level around. Better yet, each of these areas represent some tragic element that happened to Danny in the past, ultimately unraveling an interesting story of sadness and regret. Complete all of these missions and you'll figure out just why Danny can't sleep and help him get some much-needed rest.
The nice thing about Crush is that you can take it at the speed you are comfortable with. While you're graded on how quickly you complete the levels, there's really no reason for you to rush. Take your time to take in your surroundings and figure out just how to collect all the orbs and get Danny to the exit. And best of all, you don't even have to worry too much about dying (or waking up, since Danny is solving these puzzles in his sleep). If you fall off a ledge or get hit by a giant bug you'll simply start the level over again, which is generally not a big deal. Most levels even have checkpoints scattered around, so having to start again isn't all that tragic. Of course, if you take too much time and wake up more than a few times you will get a lower grade, but you'll still get the satisfaction of beating the level. If you're one of those people who is a stickler for the high scores then you can always replay any and all of the levels and improve your grade.
While all of the puzzles can be beaten in a matter of minutes, a lot of the levels will take quite awhile to figure out. And even if you do figure out how to get Danny to the exit, you will still want to go back through the level and find the various hidden items. Each of the 40 levels offers a trophy to collect and a puzzle piece, both of which unlock extra features in the game's main menu. Of course, like any true puzzle game, figuring out how to collect these items is easier said than done.
If Crush has any problem it's that the game isn't nearly long enough. The 40 levels will definitely take you a few hours to figure out, but after you're done you'll be left wanting more. Perhaps that's a good sign, since not every puzzle game leaves you wanting another 40 levels to complete. Still, at $30 the game comes with more than enough levels to warrant the full price purchase. And even after you've beaten all of the levels you'll probably want to go back and get 100% on each level, while also finding the puzzle pieces and trophies.
The graphics in Crush aren't nearly as cool as the concept, but they do have a certain amount of charm to them. Instead of going for a happy-go-lucky look, most of the levels you solve puzzles in are full of gloomy locales. Even something that sounds bright and colorful, like the Seaside levels, is plagued by an uneasy feeling that not everything is right. The character of Danny is actually really cool; he sleepwalks through these puzzles with his head sagging and his arms lifeless. I actually really like this effect and feel that the graphics do a great job of conveying the dream state that Danny finds himself in. I suspect that this art style is not for everybody, especially people that feel that this game should be a little more lighthearted than it actually is. Either way, the graphics are crisp and the game looks good on the PSP's screen.
It's hard to find too many faults with a game like Crush; the concept is original and the whole game is expertly done. Even with an interesting story and some cool graphics, it's the levels that steal the show. Each and every level is awe-inspiring, and the game proves to be challenging without being too frustrating. Best of all, Crush is a perfect handheld experience. Even if you only have a few minutes to play you can come away from Crush feeling like you've accomplished something. It may not be the biggest name of the year, but if you own a PSP and want to try out something truly original (and mind boggling) then Crush is your game!
If you're one of those people who constantly talks about wanting a new video game concept for gameplay experience, then you should already be on your way to your local game store to pick up Crush. This Sega puzzler is unlike anything you've ever seen before; it's quirky, it's fun and, best of all, it's endearing on every way possible.
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