It seems that despite major advances in technology, portable gaming will always be defined by quirky cerebral puzzlers, rather than graphically advanced games. It makes perfect sense really, as it’s easier to engage yourself with a quick and absorbing logic puzzle, than it is to immerse yourself in the epic adventures of Nathan Drake while sat on a crowded train. That’s why when you look at the history of handheld gaming, you’ll see a cascade of classic puzzle titles which stand among the best of their respective consoles. The Gameboy had Tetris, the DS has Professor Layton and the PSP had LocoRoco.
Sega now brings forth its own attempt to create a definitive handheld puzzler for the Nintendo 3DS in the form of Crush 3D. You play as Danny; a young teenager whom has befriended a mad scientist in the hope to cure his chronic insomnia. Using a new invention known as C.R.U.S.H, Danny is forced to enter into his very own mind to cure his sleep disorder. Their relationship is essentially that of Doc and Marty from the Back To The Future films, and there’s also a similarly irrelevant and wacky humour running through the game – reminiscent in many ways of classic Lucasarts games like Day of the Tentacle.
Originally released in 2007 for the Sony PSP, Crush failed to find an audience despite some glowing reviews. On the Nintendo 3DS it’s now given a new lease of life, with a colourful graphical overhaul and some new added features, but the puzzles remain essentially the same. As you might also expect, the crux of the gameplay and Crush 3D’s unique selling point, is identically carried over. Thankfully, it’s still an intriguing gameplay mechanic even five years on.
Upon entering each puzzle you’ll find yourself in a 3D world, scattered with collectable marbles and a hidden exit. With a mere touch of a button you can transform (or crush) this three dimensional world into a platforming style 2D side-scroller. For instance, if you’re standing on one platform with another seemingly unreachable in the distance, crushing the landscape into 2D will push you towards and onto that platform. Likewise, if you need to get higher, crushing the floor below you will bring it to the same level as all other higher platforms.
It’s a concept which can seem initially daunting, and playing through your first few puzzles will be likely driven by as much confused random crushing as anything else. However, once you get to grips with Crush 3D’s clever perspective shifting gameplay, you’ll soon be able to wrangle your head around some of the more complex puzzles. Many of the worlds will require a decent amount of brainpower before you’ll be able to find the solutions to escape. Graphically, it takes a more comic book approach than its oppressive PSP counterpart, and the 3D effects are generally well done, giving the world some further dimension without being essential.
A total of 40 puzzles drive the game forward rather than its minimal story, and they take place across four differently styled worlds. Difficulty is also cranked up rapidly, making many of them require much head scratching before you’ll figure out the solution. As you progress, new elements are added to the worlds of Crush 3D, giving you brand new problems to deal with. Puzzles are complicated further by the appearances of deadly cockroaches and traps, which spruce up the gameplay but can’t quite hold back a nagging feeling of repetitiveness.
Outside of the main story in Crush 3D are some added bonus modes which help flesh out the title beyond the bulk of its signature puzzles. Hidden within the environments are well buried trophies and unlockable artwork books, all of which give incentive to explore worlds you’ve already completed. By doing so you can also unlock new dressing gowns for Danny, presumably to make his dimension-shifting adventures a little bit more stylish.
Then there’s also a Trophy Mode, which offers the same 40 levels of the story mode but with the difficulty having been fiendishly ratcheted up. Rather than having the freedom to explore, you’re now up against a strict time limit with a specified number of marbles to collect before finding the exit. If you find yourself blasting through the main story with cocky ease, the Trophy Mode will test both the patience and skill of even the most hardened puzzle solvers.
While it’s essentially little more than a spruced up remake of the PSP original, Crush 3D is still an absorbing, complex and surprisingly funny addition to the increasingly solid line-up of Nintendo 3DS puzzle titles. However, anyone with a short fuse should be warned that Crush 3D is often as frustrating as it is additively fun. Likewise, its longevity will be personally dictated by your own love for solving puzzles, as others might get tired of Crush 3D’s quirky mazes long before it’s over.
Crush 3D is available in stores now, and is also available as a playable demo from the 3DS eShop.
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