Critter Crunch Review
Developer: Capybara Games
Publisher: Capybara Games
Date of North American Release: October 15th, 2009
While first hearing of the title Critter Crunch, most people would assume the game would be targeting the younger crowd. However the game is appealing to gamers of all ages as it a strategy based puzzle game. If you have ever played games like Bejeweled or the iPhone version of Critter Crunch you will find it to be very similar to this game.
You take control of a hamster like creature called "Biggs" who lives on the Krunchatoa island. Biggs has one goal in the puzzles you engage in; suck color based critters off of vines and spit them back out feeding other on screen critters causing them to pop. Feeding two smaller creatures into a larger one will cause it to pop and so on. More and more critters are added onto the screen after a set time interval, if you let even one critter get off the vine you will fail the level.
Popping a chain of eight or more critters will result in the appearance of Biggs' son: Smalls. When Smalls arrives you have a short time limit to get over to him and hold down the circle button to barf rainbows into his mouth. I'm sorry, did I say rainbows? That's right I did - and I am serious! Biggs will open his mouth and barf a mixture of rainbow goo into his son's mouth. This will max out your bonus meter, thus causing you to receive more and more points. Other than this feature you will spend the majority of the game picking up points and jewels from popped critters as the main source to fill up your hunger meter.
Controls in Critter Crunch are simple to master. You move Biggs using the d-pad and . To grab onto a critter with your tongue and spit him back out all you do is press the button. Besides pressing the button on menus, that's far as controls go. No hidden combo buttons to press or anything hardcore - the game does a great job with the control setup and keeping it simple.
I've found that strategy is (perhaps surprisingly) an important part within the game. You cannot get the puzzle done if you do not think about your next move. For example, you can align all of your yellow critters up, then feed two bugs to them and watch every single yellow-colored critter pop in that row. It is much more effective than if you were to individually pop them. The game can get pretty crazy and will require you to make split-second decisions that can change the outcome for better or worse.
When you first start into the singleplayer portion titled "Adventure Mode" you are greeted by Hank Hudson, host of a nature show that reminded me of Steve Irwin's nature series. I was first turned off after learning that I would have to read the text bubbles that popped up one after another. However, the story aspect of the game is very unique as you find more and more revealing information about the "Biggs" creature and his motives as you beat levels and progress deeper into your adventure on Krunchatoa.
The games early levels are more or less tutorial levels. It does a great job of demonstrating and teaching you the fundamentals of the game. Levels are split up into sets. In one set there are 2-5 levels, with a total of 22 sets in all. For each set you beat you unlock a new and more challenging levels to play on. All the way up until the very last sets you will be challenged with new critters, such as blockers and bomb critters and much more. The adventure mode does an amazing job of keeping the gameplay fresh right until the very last levels.
One of the first few levels in "adventure" mode, shows basic gameplay concept.
As more and more levels are completed in adventure mode you unlock more features within the game. There are up to three separate modes you can unlock: Puzzle, Challenge and Survival mode. Puzzle mode is very unique and perhaps could have been sold as a separate game itself with a total of 100 puzzles to complete. In this mode you have a preset number of moves to "crunch" all of the critters on the board. Of course, the early puzzles can be beat in only a few minutes but later puzzles could have you scratching your head for days with the difficulty level.
Challenge mode resembles the adventure modes standard gameplay, with a few extra twists involved. Once again you will have a hefty set of 55 unique challenges to complete. Some could be as simple as fill up your hunger bar, while others could be very challenging such as beating the level without destroying this or that critter. Survivor mode is perhaps the weakest mode of the game. It pits plays against a never ending wave of critters that must be destroyed before Biggs lets them escape off the vine.
When it is all said and done, singleplayer mode for this game is insane. There are easily over 200+ levels to beat with different settings for each and everyone. The difficulty level is hard enough to keep great gamers challenged, but easy enough for casual players to pick up and play. This is the best PSN singleplayer game for the price point of $6.99, it is the perfection of what a downloadable game should be.
Most PSN games have lackluster multiplayer support and, unfortunately, the trend continues with Critter Crunch. However, the downfall does not come from lag, glitches or other bugs that plague most titles. In fact, there are no disconnection or lag issues at all with the game. The online community for this game is almost non existent. Waiting 10 minutes or longer for someone to finally stumble into your game room can be very discouraging. Your average match in Critter Crunch will take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.
At release there are two online game modes supported: co-op and versus mode. Both of these modes are limited to two players. Co-op is the survivor mode that you unlock during the singleplayer portion of the game. However, you get to team up with another player to see how long you can survive against harder and harder waves of critters. Success or failure depends on the both of you working together on the never ending puzzle.
Critter Crunch Online versus mode in action.
Versus mode contains the standard single player challenge mode, however, you are going against another player. This is where you will be spending most of your time as gameplay is ranked and tracked. Your objective is to fill up your hunger bar to add more critters to the opponent's puzzle and cause their puzzle to over stack and them to fail the match.
For every match that you win in versus mode, you get points added on to your "experience level". Losses unfortunately do not count and in order to rank up you need wins. There is no real goal for ranking up at all, unless you are going for a trophy. Leaderboards are supported within the game and stats such as disconnection rates and win/loss ratios are shown before you play your opponent.
The multiplayer mode is ideal if you and a friend have the game. Great times can be had as voice chat is supported. I was able to invite friends into my game rooms with ease and there were no issues at all in the process. Once the game is over there is no need to reinvite them unless you wish to change game modes. Room customization however is non existent as you cannot adjust time limit or any other basic game options.
If you are looking for a hardcore multiplayer title, this game will only disappoint as there are not enough features or a high enough online population to get the job done. The game online is limited to two players at all times. If you wish to buy it for multiplayer it is best that you have a friend that you can play with to avoid the hassle of finding games. Overall, multiplayer can be described as an average experience that could have had a lot more to offer.
Everyone these days is high on graphics and Capybara is obviously very aware of that as this is one of the best looking PSN games out there. The beautiful backdrops behind the puzzles and the colors of the critters themselves are luscious eye candy.
One thing, however, that is lacking within the game is the sound quality. There simply is not enough sounds and majority you hear become monotonous as they're repeated over and over again.
Gameplay: 9/10 Brilliant
Singleplayer: 10/10 Flawless
Multiplayer: 7/10 Good
Technical: 9/10 Brilliant
Overall: 9/10 Brilliant
Maybe this game is what the PSN store was missing all a long. With easily over 200 levels in the singleplayer portion of the game you can not go wrong. Gameplay is simple enough to pick up and play for anyone. The only downfall would be in multiplayer - it's just an average experience that is lacking in replay ability.
Despite that, Critter Crunch is the best bargain on the PSN store for a price of $6.99. Honestly this game would have made more sense to be sold at $14.99, so the price is an absolute steal. There is no reason why you shouldn't purchase this game and add it to your Playstation Network collection.