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PSP  header logo

Crush

For: PSP

The game it's impossible not to fall in love with

Product: Crush | Developer: Zoe Mode | Publisher: Sega | Format: PSP | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Crush PSP, thumbnail 1
Look around any commuter train and you'll see monotony being fought in many ways. Whether it's pencilling numbers into a grid of blank squares, filling in words as dictated by cryptic clues, or highlighting differences between two pictures featuring some celebrity bimbo who has had her skirt lengthened in one so you can no longer see her breakfast, the fact is we can't be left to our own thoughts for a moment without seemingly getting bored.

Whether it's because we like to tax our brains or we're trying to avoid thinking too much about our day-to-day misery, the fact is puzzles help pass the time like few other activities. And more and more of us are turning to video games for assistance.

But in an age of me-too Tetris clones, brain training or sudoku rip-offs, it's rare to encounter a puzzle game that's actually genuinely different.

Thankfully, Crush is one of those games.

Despite the fact it's weaved around a plot involving treating an insomniac called Danny who has to delve deep into his troubled mind in order to get a good night's sleep (a scenario that brings little to the game aside from some beautiful static cut-scenes and a genuinely witty script), at its heart, Crush is a pure puzzle game, and, beautifully, one which relies on simple set of rules.

With each level taking place during a troubled moment in Danny's past, players are asked to navigate the Danny character from the start to the goal to the end collecting a set number of tokens along the way.

So far, so like any game you'll have played ever. What's different here, though, is that you can 'crush' a 3D level into two dimensions at will. Just by tapping the left shoulder button, a complicated three-dimensional world can be reduced into a side-on or top-down schematic, which opens up different, previously impassable, routes.

It's an incredible mechanic, and one that makes good use of the platform. Simply, Crush is a concept that could only exist on a video game system.

Your character only has basic athletic abilities – walk, jump and crouch – but this is no action game, thankfully. Free from time constraints and not really blighted with the possibility of keeping your character alive, lateral thinking – literally – is the order of the day, as platforms and ledges seemingly impossible to reach are reduced to two dimensions and back again in order to progress.

Levels can be crushed in any direction by switching the view on the D-pad. Holding the right shoulder button in either view enables you to scroll around each level in two or three dimensions – often, you'll spend almost as much time flicking between views and perspectives than actually moving the character. It's a sedate way to play, requiring thought rather than reactions. 

The levels are intricately designed, with solutions obvious only after a good deal of head scratching. Different blocks have individual properties, such as only being traversable in two or three dimensions, or becoming hollow when crushed, revealing pathways hidden in another view. Almost every level will come complete with a single moment of revelation where – pow!- the moment hits, and the solution becomes obvious. And with no overall set time limit to complete a level (unless you're going for the highest scoring ranks), there's opportunity to savour every moment.

Replay value may only appeal to statistic fetishists and those addicted to class A-rankings, but that doesn't mean Crush is short-lived – far from it.  Each level can be solved a quick way or else you can take the long road, picking up special unlockable tokens offering an additional time trial mode or some artwork, and whilst these aren't reason enough to tackle each level many times over, there's a joy in discovering a more convoluted route complete with hidden gems.

Graphically, it's a little colourless – an insomniac's mental breakdown is clearly not the most vibrant of locales. A brighter scheme – or cheery back story – would have helped for sure. As it stands, Crush is not a game that convinces through screenshots, but those that prefer beauty over brains should absolutely not miss out.

A few other niggles more significantly mar what could have been a perfect puzzler, however. The design elegance sometimes feels overcomplicated, with ever more special features and abilities thrown together randomly; the tutorials may be excellent, but some levels are initially completely baffling. Also, the sedate pace of the game is occasionally interrupted by the appearance of time restrictive alarm clock blocks, which must be quickly deactivated before they count down to zero – and this changes things significantly for the worse.  Sometimes you want to admire the journey rather than speed through it.

Crush is not perfect, but it is a highly original, polished puzzler. It's the perfect antidote to the brainless teasers found in the majority of the free newspapers, almost redefining the puzzle genre. After this, traditional pen-and-paper puzzles will seem so, well, one-dimensional.
 
Crush
Reviewer photo
Simon Byron | 30 May 2007
Genuinely innovative puzzler that will change the way you think about the genre
 
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