February 15th, 2007, 19:36 Posted By: wraggster
Crush is a game that I want to play. Developed specifically for the PSP by Kuju Entertainment (Battalion Wars, Fire Warrior), it's one of the most original games yet created for the PlayStation Portable and a title with a ton of potential (it does have similarities to Super Paper Mario after all). What's most surprising thing about this project, though, is that it isn't a sandbox game or some kind of epic actioner -- it's just a clever puzzler.
In it, you assume the role of Dan, a guy who has spent most of his life trying to work out various personal issues and a dude who can't shake his terrible insomnia. His life has gotten pretty bad to be honest, and in a last ditch effort to keep himself from going crazy, our young hero has succumbed to the miracle of hypnosis. As Dan is put under, he's charged with one mission: to solve the mysteries of his past, uncover his repressed memories, and save his sanity before it's too late.
What really makes this concept interesting is that "the mysteries of Dan's past" are actually a series of reality-defying brainteasers. Set in four different environments (a city, the seaside, and two others), each puzzle challenges players to solve problems in multiple dimensions. Best described as an Escher painting come to life, each subconscious enigma begins as a 3D world with an exit that's seemingly impossible to reach. In truth, that's your only real goal (well that, and collecting marbles that actually unlock a gateway) and all you have to do to reach that goal is walk to the open door.
The trick is that getting from your starting point to the door is easier said than done; there's never a straight line from point A to B, and users have to figure out how to overcome such challenging obstacles. Rooftops without access ladders, 20-foot jumps, and doorways upside down and underneath you are just some of the conundrums you can expect.
So how do you solve this mystery? The only way to do it is to "Crush," which is to stomp your foot like Heihachi (with the Left Trigger) so that you can transform the environment into a 2D plane instead of a three-dimensional one. What angle the camera is pointed at and what kind of surface you're standing determines what happens following each crush as well -- so this can mean that, depending on your angle, you might create a platform ladder or activate some kind of machine to help you progress. Once you "Uncrush" back to the 3D world, you can travel to your next spot and repeat if necessary.
As complicated as it might sound in the written word, it's pretty easy to get the hang of when you see it. All the stages I saw, for example, took place in a nighttime neon city that had all manner of bizarre puzzles to solve. But as I watched the producer crush and uncrush his way through the various areas to get to the next area, it quickly became evident how simple and addictive this sucker could be. Swapping between the 2D and 3D planes is an extremely cool concept and limiting users only to jumping and crouching puts an emphasis on choosing the right camera angle and one other simple goal: to get the hell out of there.
Unfortunately SEGA hasn't given a solid release date for Crush yet (it's just "summer" for now), so it's still up in the air as to how long it will be before we can sit down and play it at length. Company reps did tell me, however, that there's still a lot of work to be done and that the final game will have somewhere between 40 and 50 stages (and possibly even downloadable content, but that decision hasn't been made yet). With an order that high, it could be several months before it's shown again.
But personally, I'm willing to wait those months if it means we're getting a high-level puzzler out of it. Crush has a very compulsory feel to it, and the idea that there's actually a story to tell (told Memento style as you regress further and further into your memories) is a nice extra touch. The art style is pretty sweet too and the camera doesn't seem to have any noticeable problems. Hopefully, Crush can impress me this much again the next time it crosses our path.
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