Should Nintendo be hoping to reclaim its hardcore credentials in time for Wii U, Zoë Mode isn’t on board. Crush3D is a remake of PSP puzzler Crush, but while whole levels have made the leap to 3DS intact, the original’s psychedelic stylings and dark-tinged, insomnia-fuelled storyline have not. They’re replaced by charming, toybox-style presentation, a blandly designed main character, and a gently comedic story. This is a warmer, friendlier take on Crush, but at least the game has found the platform it was made for.
Like Pullblox, Crush3D uses the hardware’s USP to make puzzles based around objects in 3D space easier to understand. It’s similar, too, in that its puzzles are the levels themselves, but its major trick lies in how you solve them.
Tap L and the level you’re standing in is ‘crushed’, its 3D geometry flattened into 2D. Distant platforms can be easily reached once you’ve removed that pesky extra axis, and if you move the camera to a top-down view, a crush can render tricky elevation differences moot. The 2D versions might be more digestible than their 3D alter-egos, but a flattened world isn’t always simpler. If you want Crush3D’s protagonist to walk behind or in front of something, he’ll need added depth to do it.
There’s a striking charm to the animation that becomes a little lost when you make the switch to 3D.
Certain collectibles must be bagged before levels can be completed, requiring you to crush and un-crush each hidden corner. Later stages layer on the complications, including enemies that need squashing with giant balls, moving platforms and blocks, glyphs that stop you from crushing until they’re obscured, and more. Nothing’s tricky to comprehend in itself, but solving puzzles means applying your understanding to the alternately flattened and unfolded space.
These details lead to harder puzzles, but they also undercut some of the early stages’ elegance, where a change of perspective can see a solution slot into place. As Crush3D cranks up, levels become complex sets of puzzles upon puzzles. They’re more challenging but also more abstract, and the game becomes more concerned with these added complications than the spatial-awareness-testing simplicity of its core mechanic.
But unless you played Crush, you’re unlikely to have tried anything like Crush3D. It demands you think in convoluted ways, while the hardware is perfectly suited to its visual tricks. It may tread more carefully around its psychiatric themes, but its puzzles still toy with minds as easily as they play with space.