What a great year it's been for innovative new puzzle games. First we had the amazing Puzzle Quest, the game that combined the role-playing genre with Bejeweled, and not we're introduced to Crush, a wacky new puzzle game from Sega. Although it shares some similarities to other popular games this year (such as Nintendo's own Super Paper Mario), Crush proves to be a completely original idea that is unlike anything you've ever seen before. It's exciting not just because it's a solid puzzle game, but because it's great to see such an original product come to the Sony PSP.
Crush tells the story of a long-haired twenty-something named Danny. You see, Danny is suffering from some a bad case of insomnia, he lays awake all night thinking about his past and all of the unresolved issues he hasn't dealt with yet. Convinced that he needs some professional help, Danny decides to take part in an experimental procedure conducted by a mad scientist, Dr. Reubens. This Doc Brown-style scientist has this brand new contraption that will get to the bottom of Danny's problems and propel his career to the next level.
Unfortunately Dr. Reuben's miracle cure requires Danny to do more than just take sleeping pills. The machine that the scientist has created is known as C.R.U.S.H. (the Cognitive Regression Utilizing pSychiatric Heuristics) and allows Danny to literally jump inside of his head and get to the bottom of his troubles. Of course, all this is easier said than done. In order for Danny to get a good night sleep he's going to first have to solve dozens of puzzles and learn a thing or two about himself in the process.
This crazy story is only the set-up for what proves to be an even crazier puzzle game. While the object of Crush is simple and generic (it's your job to collect enough orbs and find the exit to the level), the way you go about completing each task will make you use parts of your brain that you didn't even know you had. Through 40 different levels you will have to figure out how to guide Danny from the beginning to the end without making him wake up ... a task that is a whole lot harder than it sounds.
So what's so original about moving your character from the start of a level to end, you may ask? Well, the trick is in HOW you move your character from the beginning to the end. The gimmick that sets Crush apart from every other game on the planet is that in order to solve the puzzles you are going to have to "crush" the levels by turning them from 3D to 2D. When you first enter a level you are able to run around a full 3D environment. However, if you're going to collect all of the orbs and make your way out of the level then you're going to have to hit the left shoulder button and turn this 3D area into 2D.
While that may sound complicated, this "crush" mechanic is actually very simple and you'll understand how it works almost immediately. You control Danny by using the analog nub; this allows you to run around the 3D world much like you would any other modern third-person action game. However, the camera is controlled by the D-Pad, so you can look at the level from a number of different perspectives. If you want to switch from 3D to 2D all you need to do is push the "crush" button and depending on what camera perspective you have the world will change right in front of your eyes. It's important to note that your "crush" effect will change depending on how you're looking at the level, so if one angle doesn't help you it might be useful to try one of the other camera positions.
All this 3D to 2D stuff works because the game lays down the rules about how each of the objects work. For example, there are some objects you won't be able to walk through when you're in the 2D perspective. Also, you will only be able to "crush" on certain types of panels, something that ultimately restricts how you go about solving the puzzles. Once you've mastered the rules (which are introduced within the first few minutes of play) you'll find that it's easy to manipulate the levels and get around. But don't confuse the game's simple rules with the difficulty of Crush, because this is one title that will put your brain to the test.
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