Matt Keller
21 Jul, 2007

Crush Review

PSP Review | A weird and wonderful way to cure mental illness.
One of the major issues many people had with the PSP’s software line-up during the system’s early years was the distinct lack of original, portable-friendly software. Regardless of the fact that this problem has been largely solved in the three years since the PSP launched, the stigma still sits with the system to this day. Zoe Mode’s Crush is one such game which looks to attempt to alter this school of thought. With a unique blending of 2D and 3D gameplay, Crush is a puzzle game unlike any other we’ve seen before – and it’s a lot of fun to boot.

Crush does have a little bit of a story behind it, which is oddly refreshing for a puzzle game. Players take on the role of Danny, a young chef who is suffering from a brutal case of insomnia. He seeks out the help of Dr. Reubens, a mad scientist, to find a cure for his condition. Reubens has developed a machine called C.R.U.S.H. (Cognitive Regression Utilizing pSychiatric Heuristics), which allows Danny to venture into his psyche, and attempt to repair the damage that prevents him from sleeping soundly. As one progresses through the game, the story digs deeper into the events that led to Danny’s insomnia, from repressed memories to unpleasantries in his current life.

Poor mental health can be fun.

Poor mental health can be fun.
Each level in Crush represents a portion of Danny’s fractured psyche. Scattered around each level are a number of lost marbles, which the player must collect to open the portal to the next level. Sounds easy enough? Well, due to Danny’s poor mental health, each level is in pieces, and just getting around to pick up the marbles is impossible – this is where crushing comes in. Crushing allows the player to change the 3D world into a 2D world, essentially flattening everything. It sounds a little complicated, but the early levels of the game do a very good job of demonstrating just how one can use crushing to their advantage, and what situations require it. For example, if a walkway is uneven, with no way of Danny traversing it in 3D, a player can move the camera above Danny and crush, levelling the playing field. If Danny can’t reach the other side of a gap, the player can crush the level in a way that eliminates the said gap – and so on. Of course, some objects are solid, and won’t be able to be passed through when crushed – there’s a solution to each of these puzzles, and although it can seem a little abstract at times, figuring it out is all part of the fun.

The game features four different themes with about 10 levels each, and paces the increase in difficulty of each puzzle quite well, introducing new types of obstacles with each change in theme. These obstacles range from giant cockroaches, which Danny naturally hates (being a chef), to alarm clocks, which will cause Danny to wake up if not shut down in a certain time limit. There’s no real punishment for the player’s mistakes – at worst, Danny just wakes up and you restart at the last checkpoint. Some levels also feature thoughts printed on the walls that, when crushed, will have some effect on the gameplay, such as the featherweight thought, which increases Danny’s jumping range. Crush is challenging without ever taking players past the point of frustration – when one gets stuck, you have to try to think outside of the box and look at things from different angles. The only real outstanding problem with Crush is that there’s not nearly enough of it – the 40 levels can be beaten in a couple of days, and there’s very little incentive to repeat each level – trophies and higher rankings can unlock time trials and some concept art, but that’s about it.

Cockroaches might survive nuclear warfare, but heavy boulders are the great leveller.

Cockroaches might survive nuclear warfare, but heavy boulders are the great leveller.
Crush’s presentation is quite neat, with the narrative portions of the game presented as a comic book with an interesting art style. The in-game graphics are reasonably pretty – the main character looks and moves well, and the stages are rather Escher-like, though the texture work suffers from a little blandness on some stages. The camera is really good, and frame rates are never an issue. Sound is a bit weaker than the rest of the game – the soundtrack is not really very distinct or memorable, and the voice work is a bit generic. Still, one can overlook these problems given that they have very little impact on the experience.

Crush is easily one of the most original pieces of software that will be released in 2007, ironically on a platform that gets heavily criticised for its lack of original content. Its fresh approach to the puzzle genre is sure to keep many a PSP owner glued to their consoles. The only real problem with Crush is that there’s not enough of it – the game’s 40 levels can be beaten in a number of days, and there’s not much in the way of replay value. That said, Crush is a fantastic game and a necessary part of every PSP owner’s library.
The Score
Crush is easily one of the PSP's best games, thanks largely to a fresh premise and highly addictive, brain-teasing gameplay. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
Great game, though almost impossible to find in Oz. Apparently only a few copies were actually released locally...

It's times like this I love Sony and their region-free love. (Though I'll just not mention the PAL PS3 rort shall I?)
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