By Laura . March 25, 2012 . 5:00pm
As the name implies, Crush 3D is a puzzle game that plays off the key mechanic of “crushing” a 3D world into 2D and back. The concept sounds deceptively simple and bland, but there are many ways to freshen up the puzzle and make things more challenging, and Crush 3D takes advantage of quite a lot of them.
Through the game, you must guide Danny, the robe-clad protagonist, through different levels constructed from his subconscious mind. The entire process involves a mad scientist who is also Danny’s best friend and a machine named C.R.U.S.H. that can somehow draw memories and thoughts from the guinea pig—Danny’s—mind. Each level is supposedly made from material drawn progressively deeper from his mind, and, appropriately, they become more and more complex as you proceed.
The only way to proceed through a level is through excessive use of crushing. To make things harder (or more interesting), the world is composed of different types of blocks that respond to crushing differently. There are three kinds. The first is a solid block that becomes a wall in 2D. Because of this, you can’t stand in front of the block and crush it.
The second are blocks with borders, which you can stand on even in 2D. For example, if there is a bordered design on a wall, you can stand on that in 2D even though the block technically doesn’t exist in 3D space. The third kind is blocks without borders. This kind essentially becomes hollow in 2D and you can’t step on them at all. Standing on one while crushing will just result in you falling—hopefully not too far.
All right, so far so good? Another concept in Crush 3D is that you can change viewpoints around. This brings into the game the idea that even though something may be present on one plane, it may not in another. For example, you might find an overhead platform clearing your way past certain walls because they’re composed of non-solid blocks. Other times, something that wasn’t in your view before will become closer as you go through the level. Since crushing only 2D-izes objects in your line of vision, platforms outside of your vision aren’t included in the flat world.
And then there are ‘Sheets.’ Those with some math background will know that technically, a ‘plane’ only exists in a 2D space. Likewise, in Crush 3D, if you try crushing a sheet in some direction, it will just vanish.
All of this makes camera control especially crucial. The camera in Crush 3D is exceptionally good and you can turn it any way you need to with a single push of the D-pad to try and get a good crush on the level. You can also hold the R button and get a general overview of the world. The 3D map can be rotated any which way so you can try and get a grasp of where everything is. In addition, you can view the map in 2D and scroll around the now-flat level.
In addition to this, there are sometimes enemies wandering around that you can crush (this time, literally) by switching to 2D. There are balls that roll on forever until they hit a wall (more crushing!) and cans, which only roll in one direction. There are switches to be pressed once, and some that need to constantly be pressed to work.
There are also sometimes images, called “Thought Graffitti,” drawn onto the wall that can unlock certain aspects of the level. You can only activate them in 2D, and even then, you have to keep them onscreen for them to work. (This plays off the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”) Some images include a trophy, which unlocks the trophy for you to collect; a winged boot, which allows you to jump higher and further than usual; and a lock, which bolts the manhole shut and prevents you from leaving the level. Images can’t be manipulated, but you can change the view to avoid seeing them in 2D – instead of crushing from the side, try crushing downwards from above, etc.— and you can push balls in front of them to block them.
In each level, Danny must collect different spherical objects (aptly called ‘Marbles’) around the stage. After getting a certain amount, the manhole to the next stage is unlocked. Sometimes, there are cutscenes to move the surprisingly foreboding story forward. At least the anxiety is alleviated by some lighthearted banter.
The concept of crushing itself sounds simple, but, as with most puzzle games, the game is as easy and as difficult as you want it to be. In lieu of having difficulty levels, Crush 3D provides you with the option of collecting all the Marbles rather than just the half needed to unlock the manhole. Each level also has two goodies—a trophy and an album—that usually require some skill to acquire. Also, while the game provides a Hint system, avoiding its use allows you to avoid the Marble fee required and allows you to get a Perfect in the level. This makes things considerably harder and I had fun trying to go the extra mile.
The game awards you for your efforts, too. Trophies, which appear only when the trophy Thought Graffiti is onscreen and disappear the moment you return to 3D, unlocks Trophy levels, which are essentially time attack modes. You can also collect albums for the gallery, which showcases various concept art. In addition to all this, completing a level in and of itself gets you a “dressing gown,” which you can use to customize Danny’s appearance if you really, really despise that red-gray robe he has on by default.
If you take advantage of the StreetPass, you can also set and receive gifts from other players. They’d set the gift on a stage and, later on, you can find the gift where they left it in your game. I don’t have anyone to try this with, so I don’t know what the gift actually contains.
This may be a lot to take in, but there are simple yet thorough tutorials spread throughout the game to teach you these concepts the first time you encounter them. You can also pull up the pause screen and everything you’ve learned will be available on the bottom screen, including different block types and controls.
The game is rather good about being considerate and helpful, despite the challenges it throws at you. There’s a hint system which, with the press of a button, will tell you what the next best move would be. Using this feels a bit like cheating to me, so I haven’t done so yet, and every time you use a hint, you lose a Marble. This makes it impossible for you to get a perfect ranking in a level. It also often provides tips during the loading screen. The game is awfully good about short loading times, though.
In addition, despite the various ways you can fail a level (Danny falls too far, Danny falls off the level into the abyss, Danny gets attacked by cockroaches…), the game is nice enough to provide you with checkpoints, so you don’t have to start from the beginning every time. You can also replay any of the 40 levels you’ve already cleared anytime you want to try and get anything you missed, or view different story scenes from the game.
I love how accommodating the game is in general despite the rather grueling challenges it sometimes tosses at you. Also, despite story being on the backburner, the hints of psychodrama are interesting. And of course, can’t forget the crushing! The idea of switching between 3D and 2D is something I’ve always enjoyed thinking about since there are so many ways to abuse the concept.
Food for Thought:
1. The level names are ‘City,’ ‘Seaside,’ ‘Funfair,’ and ‘Nursery.’ I’ve played and read enough that the latter two come off as slightly ominous to me.
2. I really like the music in the game, mostly because I love being able to recognize some of the sea shanties used as a base in some of the Seaside levels.
3. Crush 3D, of course, has stereoscopic 3D visuals, which are honestly quite good. It doesn’t enhance the level designs any, though, which is a shame.