The best aspect of Sega’s innovative new puzzle game Crush will probably also be its downfall. Crush is a breath of challenging fresh air in an era where sequels and tie-in games dominate the public consciousness. That Crush will undoubtedly be critically acclaimed is a given, but in a generally apathetic New Zealand market, that it will go undersold is hugely disappointing, but almost inevitable.
The premise behind Crush is deceptively simple. The lead character Danny, is an insomniac. When long walks on the beach and engrossing novels fail to put him to sleep, he enlists the assistance of spooky Dr. Reubens to cure him. Dr Reubens is your typical mad scientist with a typically mad science machine: CRUSH. This machine allows Danny to move through his dreams in an attempt to get to the bottom of his insomnia. Reubens instructs Danny through a series of well-constructed tutorials to show the scope and depth of the CRUSH machine.
The main attribute to be found in game play is the ability to “crush” levels as you change them from 2D to 3D with the click of the L1 button. This brilliantly simplistic design is the cog that the drives the game forward, and provides the puzzle elements with just enough novelty and challenge to keep gamers interested for hours.
Each level is designed around collecting enough of Danny’s missing marbles to open up a gateway through to the next stage. Throw in invisible walls, cockroaches, hidden treasure, giant boulders and ridiculous time limits and you’ve got a pretty amazing set of puzzles. Figuring out the right route and manipulating the environment in the right way is almost as crucial as the CRUSH itself. One wrong move and the way forward is suddenly the way back.
The controls are good enough to permit players to easily understand the route forward, with the 3D perspective allowing a complete 360 degree view around the crazy levels. When the puzzles get harder, this view is particularly useful as you illuminate the far corners of Danny’s mind. They also showcase the outstanding graphics that background the majority of levels with a vibrancy that reflects the emotional states that Danny is feeling.
Luckily enough, Danny is pretty much sleepwalking his way through his own mind, meaning that a wrong step or incorrect CRUSH returns him to the start of the level. Each level throws increasingly difficult concepts at Danny’s mind that require even more manipulation of the dimensions. Neon signs that only appear when the level is in 2D unlock trophies and items that can only be collected in 3D.
Crush is a brilliant game from one of the video gaming world’s great innovative publishers, Sega. It has enough originality and spirit for a hundred GTA-clones and keeps gamers entertained and challenged throughout the 40-odd levels presented. Here’s hoping it finds enough of an audience to green light a more-than-warranted sequel.