First Released
May 25, 2007 (16 years 9 months 2 days)
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You play as Danny, a young man suffering from insomnia, who uses an experimental device to explore his mind and discover the cause of his sleeplessness. Each level of the game, representing events from Danny's life and inspired by artists such as Tim Burton and M.C. Escher, requires the player to control Danny as he collects his "lost marbles" and other thoughts.

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Mind-Bending Marvel: A Journey Through Crush

Reviewed on PSP in December 2023
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In the realm of puzzle-platformers, few games stand out with the ingenuity and creativity of "Crush", developed by Zoë Mode and released in 2007 for the PlayStation Portable. This game isn't just another title on the shelf; it's a unique experience that combines clever game mechanics, a thought-provoking narrative, and artistic inspiration drawn from the likes of Tim Burton and M.C. Escher.

Gameplay Mechanics
The heart of "Crush" lies in its revolutionary gameplay feature: the ability to switch between 3D and 2D perspectives. This dimension-shifting mechanic is not just a gimmick; it's the core of every puzzle in the game. As Danny, the protagonist, you traverse levels representing his subconscious, filled with platforms, blocks, and various objects. The game challenges you to manipulate the environment by 'crushing' it into a 2D plane from different angles, either a top-down or side view. This mechanic turns seemingly inaccessible areas reachable, creating pathways across levels and merging distant platforms.

In the 3D world, the environment is your typical platformer, but once you 'crush' it into 2D, the dynamics change drastically. For instance, a deep pit in 3D becomes a simple obstacle in 2D, traversable with a mere step. Such clever use of perspective is not only innovative but also deeply satisfying to solve.

Challenges and Enemies
The game is not without its challenges. Various types of blocks behave differently when crushed, adding complexity to the puzzles. Solid blocks become impassable walls in 2D, ghost blocks vanish, and normal blocks remain unchanged. Furthermore, the game incorporates 'Thoughts' - special effects activated in 2D, like freezing time or enabling higher jumps, adding depth to the puzzle-solving process.

Enemies in "Crush" are manifestations of Danny's fears, such as giant cockroaches that must be squashed or nightmarish limbs that attack from blocks. These elements add a layer of urgency and danger to the otherwise cerebral gameplay.

Narrative and Setting
The narrative of "Crush" is intriguing and unusual for a puzzle game. Danny suffers from insomnia caused by post-traumatic stress syndrome and uses the C.R.U.S.H. device to explore his subconscious and confront repressed memories. This psychological depth gives the game a narrative weight that's rare in puzzle games.

The levels are varied, each representing different aspects of Danny's psyche - a dark cityscape, a seaside hotel, a funfair, and a childhood bedroom. Each level is intricately designed and filled with symbolic elements, making the journey through Danny's mind both visually and emotionally engaging.

Critical Reception
Upon its release, "Crush" received widespread critical acclaim for its innovative gameplay and intricate puzzles. Critics praised its original approach and engaging story, noting its distinct and surreal visual style. Despite its positive reception and several awards for ingenuity and innovation, the game did not achieve strong sales, leading to it being labeled as a "Best Game that No One Played" by some. Nonetheless, its impact was significant enough to be featured in the book "1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die".

Fun Factor:

"Crush" excels in delivering a unique and engaging experience. The dimension-shifting gameplay keeps you on your toes, and the satisfaction derived from solving complex puzzles is immense. The game's ability to constantly introduce new elements keeps the experience fresh and exciting. However, some may find the lack of traditional action elements a bit limiting. Score: 85/100

Visual & Sound Quality:
The game's visual style is striking, drawing inspiration from Tim Burton and M.C. Escher, creating a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere. The sound design complements the visuals well, adding to the immersive experience. However, the graphics might feel a bit dated on modern standards. Score: 80/100

While "Crush" offers a rich initial playthrough, its replay value is somewhat limited. Once puzzles are solved, the incentive to revisit them is low, despite the game offering collectibles and time trials. Score: 70/100

Level of Challenge:

The game presents a well-balanced challenge. Early levels introduce the mechanics gently, but later stages require significant thought and creativity. The puzzles are clever and require out-of-the-box thinking, offering a satisfying level of difficulty for puzzle enthusiasts. Score: 90/100

"Crush" is more than just a game; it's a journey through a troubled mind, depicted through ingenious gameplay mechanics and deep narrative. The game successfully combines the challenge of a puzzle-platformer with an emotionally engaging story, set in a world inspired by some of the most imaginative artists. It's a game that didn't just entertain but also pushed the boundaries of what a game could be - a true mind-bending marvel.

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