Crush3D is a re-imagining of the PSP puzzle-platformer Crush, which was originally released in 2007 and went largely overlooked by the general gaming public. The narrative is oddly dark and told through simple cutscenes which show conversations between the protagonist, Danny, and a mad-scientist named Dr. Doccerson who needs him to test his new C.R.U.S.H. machine, which traps the boy inside his own mind forcing Danny to try and break free. As a framing device for the levels the cutscenes do offer a pretty unremarkable but darkly comic story. Fortunately the scenes can be skipped over to get the real meat of the game, the puzzles.
The levels begin as a simple 3D space, however in this initial format the levels are barely explorable. Gaps are too large for Danny to jump, and platforms too high. However by crushing the world with a tap of the L button, the level gets crushed down to a 2D plane in a similar way to Super Paper Mario, pulling objects both from the foreground and background onto the same level. Depending on the surface, the rotation of the camera will allow for varying things to happen. For example, with the camera overhead, a platform too high up to jump to will suddenly be a part of the same path after the world has been crushed. Although it might sound a little confusing on paper, the tutorial levels make the basic elements of the game easy to understand.
To beat the levels, players must collect marbles scattered throughout the level in order to unlock a teleporter to the next challenge. Only around half of the marbles in a given course are actually required to progress, but completionists can stay behind and challenge themselves further by collecting the rest, along with any other hidden items. The biggest challenge comes from finding the right camera angle and location to crush from. Thankfully, those who remain stumped for an answer can access a quick hint as to what to do next.
As the game progresses more elements are presented to the player. Tin cans and large bowling balls can be pushed around in both the free-roaming and crushed states of any particular level, setting up some truly challenging puzzles. Enemies that need to be dispatched by crushing them with any brick surfaces also add an extra obstacle to level completion. Temporary power-ups are also usable when specific emblems are revealed, such as an increased jumping ability. Again, completionists are rewarded with more dressing gowns to dress Danny up in and production art galleries.
The game has frequent difficulty spikes and I'm sure many players will give up trying to actually solve certain puzzles and instead just rotate the camera and crush everywhere possible until they finish, or use the sometime too-helpful hint system. Difficulty aside, the game does require players to think within a 3D space, and how the entire level fits together. When you are actually attempting to solve a puzzle and not just randomly walk around doing everything, it's very satisfying when you finally figure out how to create a path to that platform that's eluded you for the last ten minutes. The platforming elements are fairly light as Danny's jumping abilities are a little pathetic, with the game placing a greater emphasis on moving objects around and crushing the levels into a more manageable state.
An extra challenge can be found in Trophy Mode, as players are racing against the clock to complete levels. As the levels are the same as the standard levels, the challenge comes from already knowing the most effective route through each level rather than cracking them, as pausing to think will almost guarantee failure. Players using StreetPass can also trade high scores and leave hidden gifts in levels for other players to attempt to obtain. There aren't any other real new features from the PSP original, despite the developers commenting in the past that they would like to have included a level editor in the first release.
With the increasing amount of downloadable games, that similarly stick to a particular concept, being sold for a lot less, I'm not sure how many people buying Crush3D will feel they have had a full priced release's value. Personally, I felt that the game would have been better served on the eShop service as I don't imagine many will feel the price tag should be on the same level as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D or Super Mario 3D Land.
The game does have a certain visual charm to the levels, especially in the crushed 2D states of each level. The original PSP version had a dark, acidic style and atmosphere that has been changed for the 3DS version where everything looks a lot brighter and less distinct. The 3D effect is initially quite impressive as the world is crushed and uncrushed, causing the world to pop in and out of the screen and is one of the better third-party attempts to utilise the technology as the effect isn't too harsh even on the highest setting. Sound effects and music are very minimal featuring very simple music and sound effects adding to the emptiness of the visuals.
Overall Crush3D is a fun and more importantly, unique puzzle game that genuinely surprised me at how brain teasing the game actually is. Although I do have my reservations about the price and release format of the game, I would recommend the game to anyone looking for a more casual, but worthy addition to their 3DS collection.