Inventive brain-teasers, enthralling mechanics and a gripping narrative make Crush a rare experience that you won’t soon forget.
Undoubtedly, perspective-shifting is a really compelling mechanic that not many titles take advantage of. In fact, the only games that come to mind are indie darling Fez and Nintendo’s Super Paper Mario. The fact that not a lot a titles feature the possibility of changing dimensions to solve brain-teasers makes Crush a special game right from the start, but its intriguing story is what will keep you engaged until the credits roll.
The main protagonist of this adventure is called Danny, a teenager who has been hospitalized because he suffers from chronic insomnia. Doctor Reubens offers to treat Danny with an experimental device called C.R.U.S.H. (which stands for Cognitive Regression Utilizing pSychiatric Psychotherapy.) When Danny is using Crush, he’s transported to worlds that only exist in his mind. Each of these worlds represent a traumatic experience that’s causing Danny loss of sleep and it’s your duty to clear all 40 levels to help him get some rest.
In Crush, the main objective is to accrue enough marbles (special glowing spheres) to open an exit to the next level. In essence, Crush is a generic platformer in which you explore various worlds, collect items, rotate the camera to get a better view of your surroundings and find checkpoints. But without a doubt, the crushing mechanic is what adds depth and complexity to the experience.
Pressing the L button crushes a level which allows you to alternate between 2D and 3D. Doing so allows you to manipulate the environment so that Danny can reach places otherwise inaccessible and solve puzzles. Crushing creates new pathways, merges platforms and connects structures. Still, there are a couple of rules to take into account, since the blocks that form platforms behave differently when crushed. For instance, you can stand on solid blocks when the level is in 2D, but not in front of them. Something similar happens with ghost blocks, since they vanish in 2D, but become solid in 3D.
Needless to say, there is a variety of blocks with different properties and when all of them come into play, you have to think outside the box in order to make it to the exit. As you make progress, additional mechanics and items are introduced, including moving blocks, switches and boulders. There are also some hazards which hinder your progress such as cockroaches or cages.
At the beginning of most levels, it’s hard to wrap your head around all the different types of blocks and mechanics, but little by little (sometimes through trial and error,) the solution starts becoming clearer. Additionally, each of the four worlds introduces a new series of challenges which require you to not only use mechanics introduced in that particular region, but also the mechanics you have learned in previous ones.
The process of crushing, jumping over platforms, finding out the most effective way of using blocks, grabbing enough colored marbles and so on and so forth is extremely satisfying. This clearly proves that Crush isn’t a one-trick-pony, since the numerous mechanics combine in inventive new ways. This is purely anecdotal, but every time I stopped playing Crush I couldn’t help but to look at my surroundings and see how I would approach it if it was a level in the game. Yes, this game is that intense.
The story also deserves some praised. Seldom do puzzle game feature a story worth paying attention to, but Crush is definitely one of those rare titles. Additionally, the grotesque-looking environments attempt to portray the main character’s psyche and his traumatic experiences and not only do they succeed, but they also complement the inviting narrative.
For those of you who thrive on challenge, Crush offers some extras. After completing each level, the game grades your performance according to a few variables (number of times you died, the time it took you to finish the level and so on,) so it’ll take you some time to get an A on every level. In addition, each level has trophies and pieces of jigsaw puzzles that unlock that level’s trophy mode and bonus art respectively.
Crush is a traditional puzzle game, but the way in which you solve those puzzles is completely unconventional. Inventive brain-teasers, enthralling mechanics and a gripping narrative make Crush a rare experience that you won’t soon forget. It does have some issues (loading times are long and there could have been more cutscenes,) but this is a title that does everything it sets out to achieve. Apart from its puzzles, there’s nothing two-dimensional about Crush.