Let me Hear that Crunch!
When the iPhone was released, I don’t think many people had anticipated how powerful of a gaming machine it would be. In just a couple of years, the iPhone has become not only an invincible multifunction device but also an amazing moneymaker. Youngsters are getting rich by developing simple applications for it, and indie developers have found an outlet to make their work known and deeply cared for. I’ve had Critter Crunch on my iPod Touch for quite a while, and no other game has got me hooked as much as this one did – on the iPod, that is.
Feeling lucky and appreciated, Capybara Games decided to launch the creature-munching application for BlackBerry platforms about nine months later, and now, over a year since its initial release, we all have the pleasure of playing Critter Crunch on our beloved but underplayed PS3. But, is it the same wonderful experience we’ve come to love on the handhelds? All you have to do is read on to find out the verdict!
First of all, for those uninitiated in this delightfully addictive food chain game, let me explain: Critter Crunch is a puzzle adventure to be played at a nerve-racking pace. On the Island of Krunchatoa, you control the ravenous Biggs; the goal is to feed him with luscious jewels formed by putting together explosive food chains. The screen is divided in a number of columns, which varies between levels, and in each of them line up a few different creatures. Biggs’ long tongue does it all – just move back and forth with the D-Pad grabbing and spitting out the bubbly creatures so they can all be fed… before Biggs gets fed.
The medium size critters love to eat the little ones; give them two of them and they’ll just burst out of happiness. For the bigger creatures it’s quite a feast – you can give them two medium guys or just one of them that’s all chubby after munching on one of the little ones. Either way, they’re all meant to burst. Better yet – if a critter explodes next to one or more of the same color, they will all go off at the same time! All these chain reactions help to fill up the hunger bar and raise your score. The faster you fill up the bar and the more chains you do, the better results you’ll get in the level. Just one little thing to keep in mind: the creatures keep on coming down, so there’s no time to lose!
Though the aforementioned creatures are the most vital to the mechanics of the game, numerous other creatures will also make their presence in the form of rainbows, bombs, etc. allowing for varied chain reactions caused by nearby explosions or by throwing critters at them. Food chains also grant you special power-ups, such as watermelon seeds that let you shoot and pop creatures or garlic cloves that make your breath stinky enough that it pushes everyone up one row.
Critter Crunch has a large map containing several areas with multiple levels. They’re all part of the grand adventure, and even though most stages are based in the frantic adventure mode found in the original game, there’s also a nice mix of puzzle and challenge stages. Puzzle stages get tough quickly; they give you a given number of moves you can do, and based on that, you have to calculate the chain reactions that will clear the whole screen. Challenge stages have you play in unexpected ways; some of them are crazy, like the one where you have to fill up the hunger bar without causing any food chains, or the one where you protect two little hatchlings from being eaten by the big guys, all the while you keep popping creatures and filling up the bar.
In addition, to the Adventure, Puzzle, and Challenge modes, there’s a Survival mode to be unlocked after you get past a certain area of the game. Here you’ll just play and play until you’re… ahem… dead. It’s certainly not as appealing as achieving success in each of the individual stages, but it’s another way to play.
There were a few additions to the PS3 version such as new power-ups and gameplay tweaks, but perhaps what surprised me the most about Critter Crunch is that this new PSN game doesn’t only offer a single-player experience; it also features co-op multiplayer and versus battles, both local and online. This means you can partner up with a friend and see how long you last, or you can just play against each other, cluttering your adversary’s screen as you fill up your hunger meter or use power-ups against him to make him suffer hallucinations and play the wrong way. This competitive mode is loads of fun!
The translation of Critter Crunch to the big screen has been made with care, for the most part. Capybara made sure the game shines in beautiful and colorful 1080p HD, and its ever-charming 2D visual style has been accentuated even more with cute, fuzzy, and colorful characters as well as lush, tropical environments that make the Island of Krunchatoa a desirable travel destination. Too bad it doesn’t exist! The only slightly questionable part of the visuals is the addition of a goofy TV reporter that appears in numerous cutscenes telling stories about the critters as if it was a documentary. The lack of lip sync makes it look like a low-budget title, which contradicts the overall high quality presentation of the game.
Luckily, this game mostly exudes high quality, which also shows in the aural presentation. The sound effects and background music take you straight to the jungle, but not to a dangerous one – the game wants you to feel right at home in its flourishing tropical forest, so the quiet sound of the wind, chirping birds, and calm but cheerful tunes take care of that. If it wasn’t for the crunch sounds, you’d think everything’s alright in that part of the world!
This addictive mix of frantic, puzzle-style gameplay is very satisfying and warrants hours of mindless fun. If you compare the PS3 version with the iPhone version, it’d be tough to say which version is better. I’d say they’re so cheap you have to have them both! I wouldn’t say the game is for everyone, but it’s certainly perfect for all those who’ll find charm and enjoyment in a puzzle game full of cute, hungry creatures that chomp one another and then explode. Don’t expect to see any blood or guts though; in this game, it’s all about happiness and keeping the belly full. Luckily, for just $7, this game won’t keep you hungry, so you better give it a try!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Charming, fuzzy critters and lush tropical environments shine in full HD. Everything is even more detailed than on the iPhone. 3.9 Control
D-Pad controls work fine, but allowing players to use the analog stick would have been nice. Gameplay feels a bit slower than on the handheld. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cool music and sound effects take you straight to the jungle. 4.3 Play Value
This addictive puzzle game is lots of fun and comes loaded with dozens of adventure, puzzle, and challenge stages as well as local and online multiplayer gameplay. Best of all, it’s super cheap! 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.