Crush3D works because the foundation, Zoë Mode’s 2007 original, was so devilishly clever. In 2012, things aren’t quite so plain sailing for the puzzler: the 3DS version might use the same core principles and puzzles but it eshews the bubbling dark undertones, replacing them with science gone wrong. It’s the same game, but altogether less biting, the aesthetics duller, the concept slightly tired.
But Crush3D does work. Sure, in making the move onto the Nintendo platform what was once an interesting take on psychedelica and sleep deprivation is now a bright, cheery viewpoint into the protagonist’s rather more stable (but still trapped) mind. You’re collecting marbles, but it doesn’t feel like you’ve lost them, they’re now more of a means to an end, a game mechanic.
That mechanic, though, is still utterly captivating, at least at first.
The idea is that your dressing-gown adorned hero, feckless as he might be, must move from level to level in order to espace the alternate reality he finds himself in. To do so, he much collect at least half of the aforementioned orbs in each area before the exit is activated, and to do that he must move, jump and crawl around floating platforms.
Platforms that, at the tap of the left trigger, suddenly become two dimensional. Whatever angle you’re currently looking at becomes flat: distances in the z-axis become null meaning you can move between previously off-centre and out of reach platforms just by striding across. This process is called crushing, and tapping L reverses the trick, righting any camera magic in a mere second.
If it’s a concept that’s difficult to grasp, it’s one that becomes second nature after the first couple of levels. By moving the viewpoint around in ninety-degree steps (and you can move to a top-down projection too) you can see instantly which blocks would be where if there was no such thing as the third dimension – and when it clicks it’s a beautiful thing.
The core set of block types, though, are hastily glanced over in the tutorial, meaning that – as with most of the game – it’s left to the player to decipher. Some are solid, and can’t be traversed in 2D, some are transparent, and thus have no physical properties when crushed and the normal ones behave like you’d expect, with the character able to jump up vertically through platforms to reach higher ground.
Collecting the orbs quickly becomes the toughest aspect, then, trying to figure out what to do next in each level to grant you access to them can be a tiring exercise in trial and error as the game progresses. Crush3d plays most of its cards quite early in a whirlwind of new introductions, but by the half way stage you’re left with levels that span out for some distance and take considerable effort to navigate.
There’s some neat features, though, in amongst the crushing. Trophies reward you with a timed version of a particular level, there’s galleries to unlock and there’s a handy hint system which means you’ll never be stuck for too long, although purists will want the satisfaction of beating the game without such help even though some of the tougher areas.
Crush3D starts off, like the PSP version, with an enormous amount of potential, but as the game progresses it turns from a cerebral, thoughtful puzzler into one that requires a huge amount of patience. Moving blocks test the player considerably, but there are other aspects that needed refining – we’d have much prefered more in the way of block types and platforming prowess than timed sections and enemies to avoid.
- Interesting concept
- Streetpass features lets you leave gifts for others
- The five year old PSP version offered better graphics
- Later levels are still too stressful
Crush3D offers an interesting diversion on 3DS, but it’s not the best puzzle game on the system (that award still lies with the utterly sublime Pullblox) and, crucially, we think it’s missing the little something that made the PSP version sparkle. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but hardly exemplary – and the current asking price of £30 just seems a little on the steep side for a game that, whilst a competent remake, is almost exactly that.