13th Jan 2012 | 12:14
Here's the 3DS irony. For all the trouble Nintendo went to, squeezing a whole extra dimension into the console, few games have really emerged that take full advantage of that exciting extra 'D'. Why? They're not allowed to!
Nintendo have stipulated that games must still be completable with the slider all the way down, to account for people who don't have a pair of autostereoscopic-ready peepers - like people suffering from a lazy eye, say, or pirates.
Now, with such an introduction in mind, you might be expecting us to say that Crush3D is about to change all that. Well, you'd be wrong. It can't. That's what stipulations are for. But still, Crush3D is as close as you'll come to a 3DS game that actually wants you to think in multiple dimensions, even if you're not allowed to really go to town in that third dimension.
In a previous life, Crush3D was released for Sony's PSP - you know, the black shiny slab that's had about as many hardware iterations released as it has games? Back then it was simply known as Crush (for obvious reasons), but the premise was the same. You play Danny, a boy trapped by a mad, if well-meaning professor in a machine designed to... well, we're not sure. It's traps people in their own consciousness, and is supposed to help them work through emotional issues via spatial reasoning puzzles.
2D OR NOT 2D?
Levels are complicated arrangements of blocks, platforms, switches, balls and the occasional enemy, arranged seemingly randomly in space. In order to complete a level, Danny must collect a set number of marbles sprinkled around these platforms to open the exit portal. So far, so generic platform game.
The twist, however, is that at first glance the levels are impossible. Not really, really hard impossible. Not 'the last boss of Jet Force Gemini' impossible, but genuinely, where-did-I-put-the-receipt-for-this-blasted-thing broken. They're made up of too-far-to-jump gaps and too-high steps. At least, they are when you're viewing the levels in three dimensions...
A simple tap of the L button, however, and things start to look a bit simpler. Danny has the ability to 'crush' the levels, which smushes all the level furniture into a single, two-dimensional plane. Suddenly, that platform that floated miles away in the background in three dimensions is right in front of Danny in two. And what in two dimensions looks like an impassable wall can be simply strolled behind in three. And while this furniture-shifting works regardless of where you've placed the 3D slider, it's an effect that perfectly harnesses the added depth on the top screen.
Of course, it's not as simple as crushing back and forth as you stroll to the exit. A cunning mixture of block types - some can only be walked across in three dimensions, some flatten Danny if he crushes in front of them, and so forth - combine with the fact that you're given control of the camera (and, therefore, the perspective from which things get crushed) to create the kind of puzzles to make your spatial reasoning lobe explode.
Things start simply enough, with levels that are little more than bog standard 2D platform challenges pulled apart and waiting to be crushed back together. Very quickly, though, Danny finds himself trapped in bizarre, Escher-like pieces of impossible architecture, where he must find the camera angle necessary to crush and change an irritatingly impassable block into the perfect barrier.
You need a barrier to stop the ball that, moments ago, was on the fifth floor, but now rests on the bottom floor (because you moved the camera to a top-down perspective and then crushed the floors to remove all height from the level).
Once you've rolled the ball into the barrier you'll uncrush, flip the camera round, and crush again, to bring a switch from the background all the way to the foreground. And once you've done all that and set the ball on the switch, you'll need to figure out how the hell Danny's going to get to the exit.
Crush3D is a great puzzler, but not a perfect one. As levels get increasingly complex, solving them becomes less satisfying: more about working out the obscure little block Danny needs to stand on before rotating and crushing, and less about thinking about how all the various structures slot together.
But this is one of the best puzzle games on 3DS so far - and, as an added bonus, it's about as three-dimensional as a 3DS game is allowed to get, too.