Crush 3D takes many of the same elements its big brother utilized in the earlier PSP version and squishes them into a form suitable for play on the Nintendo 3DS. Five years after the original Crush hit the scene, Sega has resurrected the idea for another go-around from developer Zoë Mode that takes a few liberties with the previous game’s concept and expands upon its perspective-warping gameplay for something a little different. Where indie platformer Fez is being praised currently for its excellent efforts that combine both 2D and 3D mechanics, Crush paved the way and provided a stable foundation on which to build. Crush 3D excels as a fresh take on the PSP/Vita title and stands on its own as a worthwhile addition to your 3DS library, but does take a hit in terms of presentation and narrative.
In stark contrast to the original game, Crush 3D is a brighter, much more jovial outing that follows the misadventures of a mad scientist and his young assistant. Think Doc and Marty of Back to the Future fame. Across 40 levels you’re to explore each stage, collecting colored marbles that will eventually give way to a portal to the next area. Sprinkled throughout are brief interludes between the wacky cast, who are much campier than the comic panels of Crush, and as a result play to a more predictable dynamic of that of “scientist forces young assistant into zany escapades” that unravel across each level. In this Crush 3D is much weaker than the game that came before it, but that doesn’t stop each level from presenting seemingly insurmountable puzzles for you to solve.
Collecting marbles may sound like a breeze, but in practice it can be insufferably difficult. You are free to “crush” the environments so that a 2D environment is formed or expand said level so that it may be viewed in a 3D plane. Changing your perspective is the name of the game, so that a marble that may seem worlds away is suddenly reachable simply by jumping over a tiny gap. Early tutorial levels instill this concept into players quite easily, but after those the game ramps up in difficulty rather quickly. Learning when to “crush” and how to properly manipulate the world to your advantage is a gleefully mind-boggling experience, so that once you’re conquering one level after another you feel properly skilled and as if you’ve accomplished something colossal.
Movable set pieces, moving platforms, blocks with different properties, and similar obstacles eventually present themselves, and can easily turn into frustrating challenges, especially the multiple times you’ll fall off of a 3D plane to your death. Fortunately, there are no penalties for failing. You simply start over where you were. Perfecting a level is a prickly and seemingly impossible task, but it can be done, and once you do it you’re on top of the world. Trophy Mode makes a quest for perfection an enjoyable endeavor, and once you feel you’ve conquered the main story mode, is a viable way to extend play.
Crush 3D makes platforming feel fresh and intriguing again thanks to its interesting usage of stereoscopic 3D and plane-changing dynamics. It’s a shame it ditched the delightfully weird storytelling of the original Crush game to bring another dose of plane-warping fun to a new set of players.