Crush, for all its flaws, is exactly the sort of game that the PSP needs more of. The visuals are nice and it controls well, but the key element is originality. The central concept of "crushing" an area from 3D to 2D and back again set my brain on fire and made me rub my eyes a few times while trying to grok exactly how this crazy thing was functioning. Seeing it in action for the first time is like bearing witness to a magnificent illusion—literally watching the spatial norms I've taken for granted get tossed out a window isn't something I'm going to forget soon.
My hat is off to Zoë Mode, without a doubt. In this day and age, it seems next to impossible that a brand-new idea will come along and shake up the expectations held by well-versed gamers, but that's exactly what they've done. Although some have made the claim that Nintendo's Paper Mario series got there first, it's highly debatable. Flat plumbers aside, Crush has an identity and character all its own. If nothing else, Crush is worth investigating for the fascinating novelty and devilish manipulation of space.
With that praise given, I do have to second Andrew's thought that this wonderfully clever game starts to bog down into over-complication with an array of gimmicks and gadgets that throw a wet blanket on the crushing. The simple act of transforming an area with depth into something that could pass for an 8-bit platform game is solidly entertaining enough; it was disappointing to labor so intensely, so soon under elements that feel chintzy and tacked-on.
The rules of crushing the levels seemed a little arbitrary, as well. More than a few times, I wanted to crush something behind or above me, but the game only recognizes objects within a certain distance offscreen. If a far-away structure is outside the invisible cutoff line, the level crushes as though it's not there. It's a bit hard to explain without a short video clip illustrating my frustration, but the point is that I felt the game should flatten everything completely when crushed, and not pull little tricks on players that seem to ignore the stated logic of the game.
These two factors combined did an effective job in sucking most the delight and wonder out of Crush's gameplay somewhere near the halfway point. I completed all forty levels out of pig-headed tenacity and a flat refusal to give up, but the reality was that its appeal and entertainment value expired long before the game ran out of material. It's always disappointing to see a fantastic idea wander astray or simply run out of gas. In my opinion, it's better to leave players wanting more…and in Crush's case, less is definitely more.
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