Thanks from a couple nudges from my fellow game journalists, I downloaded Cabybara's Critter Crunch off of the Playstation Network. It is almost a month later since downloading, and a significant month for gaming as well. For time capsule purposes I'll state the obvious. Infinity Ward's, Modern Warfare 2 is currently setting the world ablaze with yet another quality shooter. Electronic Arts has released some of the best reviewed games of the year these past couple of months [Dragon Age: Origins, FIFA 10, and Brutal Legend]. Even Gearbox's Borderlands and Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2 have been rocking the world of gaming. With all these elements in mind, it is not surprising that very few people have not heard of this puzzle-adventure game that is only available on the Playstation Network.
Let's be honest, collectively there are a lot of poorly designed games accessible on the PSN, XBLA and WiiWare [among other gaming services as well]. And the disc-based games I mentioned earlier were plentiful this year, but by comparison, gaming is still producing a lot of mediocre filler to tap the un-savvy consumer's pockets.
Critter Crunch will set you back seven dollars and some change. For you high definition nuts out there the game runs at an amazing 1080p. It did seem strange as to why a puzzle game would run at such a high resolution. The world that Capybara has Biggs [the games main character] joyfully vomiting in, is one of so many rich layers. The game is cute, but not in an overly shameless attempt to cater to a young and female crowd. Critter Crunch is a bit of a throwback. It has a very playful and inviting visage, but once you play a couple levels you will discover how much depth is hidden under its furry mask.
Adventure Mode is where the average gamer should cut their teeth [sorry I am full of the puns today], there is a wide variety of critters on Krunchatoa [yup, that's right] and your Jack Hanna-esque guide will go insane explaining the ins and outs of each creature. What is unfortunate is the few blemishes in Critter Crunch are apparent in Adventure Mode.
Like any puzzle game, the single player mode will show you the tools needed to advance to the next level. However, two-thirds into Adventure Mode the difficulty ramps up considerably; which is to be expected, but this exposes the flaws of the controls. The way Biggs clears levels is by matching like-colored critters together and in simple terms making the "big things eat the small things." This must be done prior to critters falling down off the vines and attacking you with their angry teeth. There will be moments where Biggs cannot eat certain critters and moments where eating poisonous critters hinders your completion of a level. This refers back to that depth and strategy I alluded to earlier. Precision is paramount, the critters speed up, and sometimes you go a column too far and other times Biggs just does not move quick enough. The controls are sufficient, but in high-level play, there is still fine tuning that could be developed.
Aside from the minor control blemish, Critter Crunch is definitely on my list of top ten games I have played this year. It has local and online modes of co-operative play and one of the most addictive versus modes since Dr. Mario. I am not kidding, me and my girlfriend have sore thumbs from some pretty intense matches. It would have been nice to have local leaderboards, or better yet, the option of creating your own profile within Critter Crunch. Since the game is tied to my PSN name, my lady does not have her own stats. Or say she has been setting new records on Survival Mode and I would like to top her score, things like this exist in the e-space of gaming. Online leaderboards are great, but people, families -- still play games together and small design features like that should not be taken for granted.
If you are not too busy exploding heads this holiday season, take some time out to support an independent gaming companies well polished piece of work. The music is just as addictive as the gameplay. And though you are barfing digested jewels into your childs mouth as a means of 'making it to the next board', isn't it nice to have a game for all ages to play?
I Give Critter Crunch...