At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey PSP Sega Europe Zoë Mode 1
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Memory Stick Duo: 320KB Minimum Click here to buy Crush.

Crush review

The PlayStation Portable has seen a bit of a renaissance in recent months. The Sony platform started out well, even outselling handheld king Nintendo's DS in some regions, but the arrival of the DS Lite and a collection of games which captured the public's imagination, such as Brain Training and New Super Mario Bros., left the PSP languishing far behind its competitor. It was accused of lacking must-have titles, and while for many it still holds this reputation, it's not at all true any more. We've seen excellent exclusives in the forms of Killzone: Liberation, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, and now there's another to add to that list of reasons to pick up a PSP: Crush.

Sega's original platforming/puzzle game comes from a developer now named after a woman; Zoë Mode, formerly Kuju Brighton, is a developer who changed their name to reflect a fresh outlook, and that's certainly what they've delivered with Crush. The name comes from the machine featured in the game - C.R.U.S.H., or Cognitive Regression Utilising Psychiatric Heuristics - as well as its main mechanic; the ability to crush a 3D environment into a 2D one. The game sees you take control of Danny, an insomniac who seeks help from the mad Dr Reuban and his machine C.R.U.S.H. It sees you essentially inside Danny's head, trying to solve his problems by reaching the end of each level after collecting a required number of marbles.

The "crushing" (or "cruphing" as the machine's actual name would allude to) is the key game mechanic that allows you to solve the puzzles in a level. You begin in three dimensions, but you will come across points where you cannot proceed any further; maybe a jump is too long, or a platform is too high or low, and this is where crushing comes in. A flick of the left shoulder button pushes the screen inwards depending on which way you are looking; top-down creates a flat world, while looking from any of the four side directions creates a view similar to traditional side-scrolling platformers. This lets you proceed past the obstacles the game presents, like pushing balls over switches, reaching higher locations, or avoiding enemies (which only play a part in certain levels). It's a rather original, and rather satisfying element of the game, and one that challenges the way you think about the levels. You need to come at this game with a new approach, and be ready to see failure before success.

Crush has a fairly good rate of progression across its 40 levels, even if it does slip up a little in places. These levels are split across 4 different worlds, each focussing on a theme relating to Danny's past, such as the seaside. The games' 3D graphics may not be mind-blowing, but they are rather effective, and the animation is spot-on. The change from 3D to 2D is a demonstration of the power of the handheld, as the view seemingly shifts between both without a hint of slowdown. Despite the complexities of the levels and the game design, the camera has been handled well, moving out of the way to avoid objects. It's also easy to manoeuvre with the d-pad, or with full analogue movement while holding the right shoulder button when in 3D.

The levels and themes of the game are carried by an interesting story line, which features some good comic moments. It gets a little tedious at times, but it is especially good considering this is fundamentally a puzzle title, and probably could have been carried by its mechanic alone.

If you're looking for criticisms there aren't many. There isn't any form of multiplayer here, which isn't particularly surprising due to the gameplay, although we'd have liked to have seen some downloadable content adding new levels in the future. There's definitely potential here for more stages, and a level editor was made but wasn't included in the final version of the game. Still, the 40 levels that do feature should keep you occupied for some time, thanks to hidden objects and their often frustrating, but enjoyable, difficulty. It's a game that keeps you hooked, and will sometimes require you to go away and come back to see a previously impossible level as actually somewhat easy.

Ratings

Graphics Some rather good 3D, combined with excellent animation, particularly in the shift from 3D to 2D and vice versa. 8/10
Gameplay Refreshingly different to anything else out there, and highly enjoyable at the same time. 10/10
Value There's enough here to warrant a full price purchase, so that's certainly value for money. 9/10
Lifespan It has 40 levels, with many on the very challenging end of the scale. There is a few hours gameplay in the initial play through, and the Trophy Mode – where you complete levels in a time limit – should keep you busy through the summer. 8/10
Audio The voice-overs are well done, and while the music and effects aren't awful, they can grate a bit after long periods of time. 7/10
Overall Crush is one of the most fresh and original games on any platform, and is a more-than-welcome addition to the PSP's library. 9/10

Click here to buy Crush from Amazon.co.uk.

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Smileys taken from Crack's Smilies.