Crush sounds fairly aggressive, doesn't it?
Despite the violence its name suggests, the world of Crush 3D is really that of the mind of the main character, Danny. The crazy doctor named Doctor "Doc" Doccerson has used him in an experiment to explore the workings of the human brain, and as expected, the computer has gone haywire. And by "haywire", I mean "wants to help Danny work through his obvious emotional baggage by making him move through gem-laden platform puzzles". Even in his own mind, he isn't too sure of himself… otherwise, he'd be able to jump a little further and scare the computer into letting him go.
The concept is not entirely unique—we've had psychotic computers try to kill us all before. Even aboard the starship Enterprise… and they had years to work out the kinks of artificial intelligence. But here, on Valentine's Day in 2011 (the year wasn't changed from when Crush was released on PSP in 2007), young Danny has to get through the rigorous puzzles of the computer named… erm, "C.R.U.S.H." Trust me, everything is explained by the end, and it plays out in similarly adorable fashion.
Playing is at once both interesting and occasionally infuriating. In order to solve each puzzle, a player has to constantly "crush" the environment into the screen, turning it from a 3D open space to a 2D platformer, either from the side or a top-down view. Like the great puzzle games, it's an easy concept to grasp, but some of those stages are simply brutal.
The first few scenes do a beautiful job of explaining and examining the concepts, and when new challenges come about throughout the adventure they're explained clearly as well, but the difficulty curve spikes too much at times and drops off quickly after story events. Some might say it can leave a player's spirit a bit… crushed! (Come on, I needed to make at least one joke.)
The look of the game is fun and cutesy, obviously not to take advantage of the power of a system but with enough little details in animation to make blocks and characters pop. Since this was designed and released before the 3DS, the depth effect is obviously tacked-on—especially during story sequences as they're visually in comic book style, just flat pictures with subtle movement—but the stages themselves look great with the added depth and Danny himself moves in phenomenal fashion (in his fashionable robe with unlockable color schemes and designs).
Stages are complex and interesting enough that the 40 levels supplied is plenty. A bit in the vein of Portal, the game might feel a little on the short side, but it works well for the style and story. While the blocks and challenges don't change from puzzle to puzzle, the environments adjust with a different theme multiple times throughout play. Each one of them gives a different backdrop and lighting effect, and while it's minor, it does give some welcome change to the similarity throughout. It might not feel like you're actually playing in a city or near the beach, but like the 3D effect, it's easy on the eyes.
Aside from the camera abruptly changing when walking behind or around something, I couldn't find much wrong with Crush 3D. The extras are simple character and design art and Danny's robe can change to a striped design or—my personal favorite—the Union Jack, but otherwise this is a bare-bones package. Again, the difficulty curve is sharp at times and inconsistent, though for a discount release, this is a fun and quirky little experience. The story is amusing and deeper, albeit forgettable, than one might think. Easy to pick up, difficult yet engrossing, and a simple story worth the giggles? Why did I not play this the first time around?