Review: Critter Crunch (PS3)October 17th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
With quite a few puzzle games on PlayStation Network, developers definitely need to have something unique to really stand out and not be just another puzzle game. Critter Crunch is a remake of an iPhone with gorgeous artwork and animation along with online multiplayer that makes for a value-packed package that puzzle fans should excited about.
Critter Crunch does have something of a story in its adventure mode, but it’s more or less a documentary done by a very enthusiastic wildlife expert that has an almost unhealthy obsession with a species called Biggliocaucus that lives primarily on Krunchatoa Island. Nicknamed Biggs, these creatures have an interesting way of getting food to feed its children, called Smalls, which involved popping the many critters that inhabit the forests for the crystals they contain that leads to Biggs feeding his children with rainbow-colored barf. As you progress through the adventure mode by beating the hubs that are spread out around the island, the wildlife expert discovers new things about Biggs that results in new obstacles and power-ups that are introduced at a fairly steady pace until the end of the mode.
The basic gameplay of Critter Crunch can be broken down as something similar to AstroPop or other games of that style, but focuses on the food chain mechanic that makes it interesting. At first, you’ll see just three types of critters: a fly, a medium critter, and a large critter. You need to feed smaller critters to larger critters either by feeding two of one type to a larger critter or small to medium to large to cause them to pop and take out any like-colored critters around them. The game layers the new critters on nicely so that almost all of them work well with everything else, minus the morpher critter that appears near the end to kind of go a bit overboard with the increasing difficulty as you near the end of the adventure mode. The power-ups that are also introduced are usually very helpful when they appear, which range from watermelon seeds to take out individual critters to pop cans that reorganize the critters that is helpful when you need a shake up.
The adventure mode does show of a bit of the two other single-player modes in Critter Crunch. Most of the hubs offer an extra puzzle and challenge event that aren’t required to progress, but they are unlocked as extra modes outside of the adventure mode. Puzzle events contain a specific layout of critters that you must clear within the amount of moves you’re allowed. Challenge events provide a specific challenge you need to complete within a specific timeframe that can vary from saving hatchlings to getting a certain amount of combos in time to even only getting crystals from certain types of chains. Once you finish adventure mode, you unlock the survival mode, which offers a potentially infinite mode where the speed increases regularly to up the difficulty.
Online multiplayer and co-op is the biggest feature of Critter Crunch, which offers up some good fun with solid network code. Just going through matchmaking for versus on our first try found a match in about a second and we were in a game a second or so later so the action could begin, which is all about getting chains quickly and filling up your hunger bar early and often to send critters over to your opponent until they are overwhelmed. Co-op is pretty much the survival mode with an extra person to help out on a field that is much wider than the single-player survival mode. Both of these modes are able to be played locally for those of you with immediate access to your friends and some good trash talk for the victor.
What is immediately striking about seeing Critter Crunch in action is the great hi-definition, animated visuals that really do stand out amongst the typical puzzle games that have been released lately. It’s almost mesmerizing enough that you can watch critters eating the lesser critters or Biggs’ moves and marvel at the detail that you would expect an average developer to simplify and take shortcuts for an adequately smooth animation, but that’s not the case here. The backgrounds are beautiful with some creatures lounging in trees or hiding as they watch the action that is unfolding. The soundtrack has a nice island/tribal vibe that fits the nature/island theme that the game has.
With a deep single-player mode, online multiplayer, and fun, challenging gameplay, Critter Crunch is one of the standouts in the puzzle genre this year that deserves your $6.99 to check it out for yourself. It’s rare that a puzzle game has anything more than an adequate level of presentation, which Critter Crunch has in spades with cute critters, disturbing but mesmerizing rainbow barf, and gorgeous animation and backgrounds that set it apart from almost every other game in the genre. A demo is expected on October 22, so those of you that would like to try it before you buy it can see what the game has to offer yourselves.