The 3DS has received a few enhanced ports in the time it’s been out. Classic games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 are “remade” to run and feel better, with the addition of stereoscopic 3D thrown into the mix allowing fans to experience a better version of their remembered classic. It also allows new people to play the games that they missed back in the day.
This time it isn’t Nintendo who is bringing an enhancement to the system, but instead Sega and the developers Zoe Mode with Crush3D. The game was originally released on Sony’s PSP simply named as Crush. It was a clever platformer puzzler that required you to explore levels and collect marbles to progress to the next stage. What made it unique was that you had to manipulate the environment using the game’s 2D and 3D world switching mechanic called “Crushed.”
All of the puzzles here are based around this mechanic as you take on the role of Danny; a young guy who takes part is using the C.R.U.S.H (short for Cognitive Regression Utilising Psychiatric Heuristics) machine after agreeing to test the device for Dr. Doccerson. Things go wrong and Danny finds himself trapped in the machine, with the only way out is to collect marbles to open portals that allow him to progress through the levels, hopefully leading to his escape from his own subconsciously-created puzzles.
In Crush3D the puzzles are the levels themselves. Each level initially starts in 3D, but will normally require you to use the crushing ability that is assigned to the L button of the 3DS system. Camera perspective will determine exactly what happens when the crushing is initiated. It will always flatten everything to 2D, but for example if you pan the camera around so that the viewpoint is from the sky, then any platforms that are at different elevations in the level will all be squished to be on the same height, making them easier to traverse.
It’s the same when it comes to crushing from the four directional side views of the character. Objects in the foreground or background will come together creating a 2D side-scrolling world, allowing you to merge platforms and traverse areas normally unreachable in 3D. The camera can be annoying somewhat when you want to focus from one side of an object that is obscuring your view. The game will automatically set a different view point making you lose the awareness of the level for a moment. It’s nothing quite serious, more of a little nag that annoyed me sometimes. For the most part, the game is very intriguing and its distinctive gameplay mechanics make Crush3D stand out, but there’s more to it than just switching the world.
Like with all puzzle games the first few levels are simple, but it’s not long until things get complicated. Affecting your crushing talent are walls that have certain abilities. Brick walls won’t allow you to crush if you are stood in front of them, and they are also impassable when you crush from above. On the opposite you can get ghost platforms that help you reach places you normally wouldn’t be able to, as you can fall through them in 2D.
Crush3D throws in monsters, with giant cockroaches and slugs trying to end your attempt at completing a level. To get rid of these you have to crush them in to a gory mess of yellow greenish goo against the brick walls. Throw in moveable objects, time-based ledges, breakable blocks, slopes, switches, platforms that only appear one in of the dimensions, and what you get is a formula for some very mind boggling level designs.
It’s easy to understand the concept of crushing, but trying to solve some of these puzzles will demand some sharp eyesight and cunning thinking. Trial and error is certainly part of this game when you get to the harder levels. You’ll find yourself gazing at the screen for a good 5-10 minutes trying to solve what to do next when you don’t see an answer from any of the game’s viewpoints.
If you find yourself stuck you can use the handy hint system that the game will gladly blink at you on the bottom screen of the 3DS. Hints will display a scene to give you an idea of your next move, but using those means you won’t be able to get the perfect rank for the level. Using the advance hints will cost you a marble, but will display a picture of exactly what to do. Zoe Mode has done well by adding the hint system as it allows people who might not be the best puzzle solves the chance to still see all the levels in the game. You’re not forced to use hints, so people who think using tips destroys the whole point of a puzzle game need not worry.
To master this game you’ll need to get a perfect run on a level. This means finding all the marbles without any help. Each level furthermore has a trophy and a book of memories to find. The latter opens up bonus artwork and the former will unlock a trophy version of that level. Trophy levels are harder versions of the same level as you can only crush a limited number of times, plus you have to solve the puzzle before the timer runs out, giving a time attack feel.
Visually Crush3D has a totally different atmosphere compared to the original game. On the PSP Crush had a darker tone, with that game’s story about Danny and his problem with insomnia. Crush3D on the other hand is light-hearted; eliminating the moody feeling from the PSP game allowing itself to open up to more audiences with its brighter colours and cartoon-style look. Cut-scenes are bland as they are just snippets of artwork with speech bubbles delivering the story, but then when do you normally play a puzzle game for the story?
One brilliant feature of Crush3D is how it uses the stereoscopic 3D. I played the game with the slider on max, giving me plenty of depth in the 3D world. When I crushed to 2D I was pleasantly surprised that the game adjusts the strength of the 3D, making the 2D lack depth within the weakened 3D effect. There isn’t any other game on the system that does something like this, something so simple yet ingenious at the same time.
Another use of the handheld’s features is StreetPass. Danny can place gifts in the level that when streetpassed with another user will be placed exactly in the same place in that person’s level. A fun thing about this is you could be evil and place it in some ridiculous place, or you could be nice and just dump it in an open area. Either way, when the other person picks it up they will gain points allowing them to unlock content like dressing gowns for Danny or artwork.
A major problem with Crush3D is for the people that have already played Crush on the PSP, it is the same game. I find it really hard to recommend it to them as you’d be paying for the same game with the same puzzles, just in an altered look. A remake of a puzzle game doesn’t quite have the same pull as a redoing of a game that isn’t solely about solving puzzles, and that’s a problem that you cannot resolve unless you throw in new puzzles.
Everyone else who hasn’t played Crush and is into puzzle games will no doubt enjoy Crush3D. As puzzle games go this one has an exceptional game mechanic that’s driven with great level design and enough challenge to make your brain hurt. Marvellous!