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Developer: ZoÃ« Mode Publisher: SEGA Platform: 3DS Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E10+ Not many games have attempted an entirely brand new concept on the 3DS, especially this early on in the budding handheld's life. Crush 3D stood out from the moment I first heard about, and even though the concept itself had actually been used before in a PSP game by the same name, it still was peculiar enough to really make me interested in what the game had to offer. Essentially a reboot of sorts, Crush 3D takes the same similar concept as the PSP game and completely overhauls the characters, art, and design with something ultimately more light-hearted, but does it stay relevant enough in this day and age? The story behind Crush 3D sees Danny, a young man and friend of an inventor, becoming inadvertently stuck in his own mind by a device called C.R.U.S.H after volunteering as a test subject. As such, Danny must collect all of the "marbles" in each level (not sure if there's some psycho analytical metaphor there) and then proceed to the exit, but to do so he must constantly "crush" the world from 3D to 2D and back. This means that whatever view or angle you're using to view Danny and the position of blocks and steps behind him play a huge part in traversing each level. One moment you could be on the outside of a building looking in at some seemingly inaccessible steps that could be used to gain access to the roof, but once you use "crush," you'll be inside the building in 2D and able to use the platforms to get the top of the structure and "uncrush, where you'll suddenly be on the roof in 3D again. And if none of the side views are producing results, turning the camera overhead Danny and crushing will open up a whole new road for him to travel on, giving you a bird's eye view rendition of the level, and areas that were seemingly too high or too low to reach before are now level for him to walk on. The same is true for when you uncrush, making it so you can reach faraway platforms with ease. It's a great gameplay mechanic, and one that I'm surprised we haven't seen too much of before. Because of the complexity that the different angles and crushing presents, Crush 3D has some truly great gameplay moments. The difficulty curve ramps up pretty early on and is pretty consistent throughout the game, and when you finally have that "aha" moment and figure out the later levels, the victory is all the sweeter. Additionally, more variables are thrown into the puzzles later on, such as balls, moving blocks, a "crush disabling mechanism" and more, and they all help to add in a bit of variety to help keep the level design from getting too stale. However, the gameplay alone is the game's saving grace, as the art and character design are extremely lackluster and the actual look of each level is rather generic and not appealing at all. I get that the game is set in Danny's head and that things are bound to be weird and unconventional, but the settings of each level are bland and generally uninspired, and the 3D doesn't too much for the game either. The same goes for Danny and Doc's character design; in fact, I could swear I've seen a similar artstyle before. The story does absolutely nothing for the game either. Aside from some generic and rather blatant Back to the Future references, it serves as nothing more to set up the game's premise. Were that simply the extent of it, that might have been fine, but even every couple of levels we're spoon-fed more of the interaction between Danny and the Doc as they attempt to try and figure out why Danny can't return to the real world. Ultimately, it's a boring plot that falls way short; I can appreciate Zoe Mode's attempt to try a story for a game like this, but the characters remain genuinely unlikeable throughout the whole game and the story is just as uninteresting. Sadly, the music might be even worse. I'm not even sure I could call it elevator music, and even then it would be generous. It's not the worst music I've ever heard, but it's pretty bland, especially the first world's theme. "Soft noise" would be a more appropriate description for some of the themes throughout the game. For this reason, I played much of the game either with the volume slider way down or all the way off. However, the good news is that there is a bit of replay value built into the game. In every level there are hidden trophies and books that you'll have to find, and discovering how to get to them takes a bit of skill to do so, and finding these will unlock new robes for Danny. There's also a hint system implemented that will give you a visual cue as to how to proceed next, but using it decreases the number of points you attain in a level in addition to losing the "perfect" status you would normally get without using hints. In all, there's a solid game to be found here in Crush 3D, but it's a shame that the art direction and sound don't quite live up to the great game design. They're not exactly terrible, just a little too generic, which is a drag because with a better story, likeable characters, and some better, catchy music, this game could have been fantastic. As it stands, the overall experience is still worth playing through if you're a big fan of puzzle and mind-bending games. There's still a decent amount of content to play through, and the concept is pretty fresh, and for that I tip my hat to the developers. Overall, if you're a big fan of puzzle and mind-bending games, Crush 3D is worth playing if you're willing to look past some lackluster art design and music. Pros + Great concept and challenging levels + Has a decent amount of replayability thanks to unlockables Cons - Art and visual design is uninspired and bland - Sound and music are irritating Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Crush 3D did well to try something new, but unfortunately the total package isn't up to the gameplay's standards. Only recommended for serious puzzle fans.