Critter Crunch Review
We have been following Capy’s Critter Crunch for quite some time, and were delighted when we were able to grab it from the store. We were so happy that, once we were done barfing with excitement, there was a bit of a scrap over who would do the review.
After an epic battle, Danny_D and I decided to share the review between us. Danny took on the multi-player aspect while I tackled single player modes.
We’ll get to that soon enough… First things first, though.
Critter Crunch puts you in the boots* of the most adorable inhabitant of Krunchatoa Island, Biggsliocaucus. Or Biggs, for short. Biggs is one of the many proud discoveries of Hank Hudson – your guide across the island and naturalist cross between David Attenborough and the late great Steve Irwin.
Hank parachutes onto the island, explaining the unique feeding rituals of Biggs and his annual quest to reach his young on the far side of the island. Along the way, Biggs has to eat critters’ innards and feed his accompanying son, Smalls.
The intro animation is supremely smooth, with a hand drawn style that would not look out of place in a Studio Ghibli production. Indeed, all of the characters themselves sprang from the mind of Qiqo, one of the artists at Capy. Influences from the likes of ‘My Neighbour Totoro‘ are immediately apparent when playing the game, and are hugely welcomed.
Particularly when the result is such a delightfully gorgeous puzzle game.
With big-eyed, emotion-filled creatures featuring so heavily in the game, it would be unfair of us not to discuss them in detail. From the bugs that get explodified (apparently they love it) to the creatures in the background, everything has a distinct air of cute about it.
Flies, grubs, rock-like blockers, foxes, Biggs, Smalls, Hank Hudson and even stones(!) have all been carefully designed to add something to the already achingly beautiful game. The backgrounds all ooze character, too. From the cave paintings of Biggs in one level to the haunting woods in another, the care that the guys at Capybara Games have taken in bringing this game to the PSN is evident in spades.
Some hold up Killzone 2 as the ultimate in current graphical ability on the PS3. If that’s the case, I would say that Critter Crunch is the best looking PSN game released. Ever. What’s more, I know I’m not the only one in the team who thinks so.
Oh and it’s all in glorious 1080p, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.
As with all puzzle games, the premise is incredibly simple; make your way across the island, stop at various levels along the way, grab bugs from below, feed said bug to another slightly larger bug, collect the jewels dropped and fill up your hunger meter. Create chains for bigger jewels, power-ups and the chance to barf at your kid, Smalls (a good thing).
Do all of this before the ever-descending rows of critters get to the bottom of the vines to which they cling, otherwise they all fall onto Biggs, beat him up and leaving him crying to himself in a bruised heap of fuzz.
There is no guiltier view in all of puzzledom than seeing Biggs humiliated to the point of tears as a result of your incompetence.
In fairness, the difficulty really ramps up as you get through the levels. You can expect to see a lot of Biggs crying as a result of these hard-as-nails later levels. It’s not just a case of critters falling more rapidly, either.
The method for completing some levels changes from time to time. For example, some levels only have the smallest and largest creatures on the vines, leaving you scratching your head for a few seconds before something clicks and you start firing off critters here and there, edging towards a solution.
Others are all about the ‘feature-creatures’, as we took to naming them. The rock-critter, for example, will not eat anything. The only way to get rid of him is to chain the critter above, allowing him to free-fall to the ground. Or there’s the bomb-critter, who will eat anything and destroy all creatures in the immediate vicinity upon detonation. Then there’s the lightning-critter who… well, you get the idea.
Single player is not restricted to the cross-island adventure, either. There are also Puzzle, Survival and Challenge modes to wrap your brain around.
Each mode does exactly what it says on the tin – clear the board in a set number of moves (or less) for Puzzle Mode, complete a specific set of conditions within a particular time limit for Challenge Mode, or just last as long as you possibly can for Survival Mode – trickier than it sounds, believe me!
The single player aspect of the game could easily have you playing for well in excess of ten hours, depending on how good you are are these sorts of games – exceptionally good value considering we haven’t even mentioned the online aspect of the game yet.
Which reminds me… Danny_D, where are you?
Right here, Phreaky!
And now, something completely different.
For the first time in PS3 Attitude history** a second staff writer will handle the duties of reviewing the online portion of the game. Lucky for me I am that second staff writer and more importantly, the game is Critter Crunch.
I’m sure that most of you have been swayed by Phreaky’s poetic prose by now. How could you not? Just read those paragraphs again aloud. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Still not decided? Really? In my humble opinion, Critter Crunch is worth the US$6.99 with the single player game alone. But there’s more: I call it icing on the rainbow-y, critter-innards parfait.
What could be better than playing with Biggs, eating almost everything in sight? Playing with two Biggs in offline versus and co-op modes, that’s what.
If you thought Critter Crunch was fast paced and exciting by yourself, just add a friend into the mix to double the experience. What’s to say about verus mode? It’s exacty what you would expect based on the single-player game; awesome.
Powerups are both hilarious and well balanced. For example, get a big enough chain or combo and you may get a ‘magic mushroom’; eat it and your opponent will go on a psychedelic trip, hindering vision and bringing back critter memories in the process. Another standout is the giant anvil with the message ‘with love’ written on it; break a skull and melt a heart in one smooth move.
But co-op is where Critter Crunch gets really good. In this mode, Biggs and doppleganger Biggs share a puzzle area that encompases almost the entire width of your TV. There are no movement restrictions for either one of you, so anything goes. Working together towards creating monster chains and combos is not only possible and very rewarding, it’s the labor of split second planning and execution. Truly a game mode that is not to be missed.
In addition to these local versus and co-op modes, you can go online and play those same modes with the rest of the world. The North American world that is (for now). The same addicting, exciting and disgustingly adorable puzzle game handles like a dream over the PlayStation Network. With voice chat to boot.
Oh yeah, you won’t find out like I did; via a ‘tips’ message while the game was loading.
There’s ‘quick match’ for when you are feeling like playing whatever game mode your Critter overlords find available, ‘join a game’ for you to pick from versus, coop or any game available, ‘start a game’ to host your own room or ‘play with a friend’ to make your own private session with that special PSN buddy. If someone has invited you to a game, one of those little blue flying bugs will be waiting for you with an envelope in tow. Adorable.
Like I already mentioned, the game performs excellently online. There is an odd less-than-one-second sound glitch that comes up every once in a while during the online menus, but it’s not really worth mentioning; we just like to give you all the facts.
And on that note, there is a sad fact about Critter Crunch online; sometimes there’s just no one to play with. But the lack of online challengers or coop buddies is not an issue with the game, it’s an issue with us. It’s an issue with you. More people need to buy this game.
I’m not exaggerating or performing any contractual obligations with Capy Games (those better be guinea pigs on your logo, Nathan, or I’ll be sad***). It’s not that often that a jaded average videogamer like myself gets this passionate for a game. A puzzle game.
Critter Crunch is a PSN game under $10 that not only offers leaderboards, competitive and cooperative modes online; it also supports voice chat. Considering that there are some PSN games that have none of the above, Critter Crunch is one of the most feature-rich online-enabled PSN games to date.
This concludes the online review of the Critter Crunch game that you should be buying right now.
Phreaky, bring us home!
However simple a puzzle game is, it is the way in which the levels are laid out that belie the difficulty of actually completing any given task. This is what makes them so addictive; the determination to beat such a simple premise.
This is where Critter Crunch excels; the very simplest of concepts, executed in the most stylish of ways for the biggest impact. At times you will find yourself playing the same level for hours, just trying to get to the next insanely hard level.
The PSN has been in dire need of an awesome puzzle game and now – finally – we have it. More importantly, we have been given one of the best PSN games of the year ever.
With a demo now available in the US Store and the game headed to the EU shortly, there is no excuse for anyone to not play this game immediately.
Buy it now.
*Ok, Biggs doesn’t have boots, but I couldn’t really write ‘stumps’, could I?
**Might not be completely true. It’s late and I don’t want to read the PS3A diary. Dolph has the key to the diary anyway and the last time I woke him up at this hour he threw the unofficial PS3A cat at me. [True story - Ed.]
***No, Danny. They are capybara, funnily enough.