Critter Crunch

Have you ever sat in a room where the question was posed: what's the main thing wrong with Space Invaders? And then heard the answer: you can't eat the space ships then spit them out? If so, you may well have been sat next to one of the superb people from Capybara Games who've come up with the slightly bonkers, but highly enjoyable Critter Crunch. The game features Biggs, a cute, bouncy, cuddly but ravenous little creature that lives on an island munching his way through crystals (superb teeth you have to guess). By happy coincidence, the crystals come from within various critters that continually crawl down vines towards Biggs, who's more than happy to start grabbing them with his spectacularly powerful tongue. What unfolds is a Space Invaders-style race to outdo the steadily approaching critters, in this case by making the poor things pop.

Critter Crunch

Popping is the key to the game though, and to achieve it, Biggs can grab a critter marching down the vines, store it in his capable mouth, then vomit it back out along any vine. Simple rearrangement doesn't suffice, but by feeding smaller critters to larger ones, the greedy mugs are soon made to pop, clearing the skies temporarily and providing Biggs with a (tasty?) crystal. Things gradually become more interesting in the game's nicely-paced adventure mode as new critters emerge, allowing Biggs to cause explosions, shoot critters with seeds, create long chains of pops and more. Each new technique is introduced through a brief tutorial and then players are thrust into the action, ready to use new methods to munch through critters. Essentially, the main aim is simply to survive and collect enough crystals to complete the level, but there are other objectives to meet, like feeding a baby Biggs until it burps happily. The balancing act of keeping back the hordes of critters while feeding mini Biggs is a steadily increasing, but thoroughly enjoyable challenge.

Critter Crunch

There are also other modes to try besides basic crunching, including a relatively-easy puzzle mode (with limited moves to clear the screen), challenge mode (with a variety of tasks usually against the clock) and survival mode. Each is incorporated into the main adventure though, which works well but carries a small cost. The variety in gameplay during the adventure is a definite plus, but the puzzles are repeated in both modes, removing the challenge and taking away a little of the game's magic. That said, there's still a large number of puzzles and challenges, and progressing through the entire adventure, especially taking into account other objectives, could take a good ten hours or more, which rivals a lot of major modern releases, even if the game itself is somewhat more basic.

Any puzzler worth the money has to get its core gameplay mechanics right, and Critter Crunch does so admiarably. Like Tetris, Lumines, Meteos and more in a long line of successful puzzlers, Critter Crunch keeps the central concept simple and runs with a fiendishly addictive style of play, steering clear of too many complications and special conditions. There are a couple of special critters later in the game that become a little too adventurous, but by that stage of the game, it's nice to see something new anyway, so the balance feels just right.

Critter Crunch

The charm of the game is helped greatly by the animation style, with Anime expressions on cute little critters, set against colourful and varied backdrops (featuring forests, coves and more, all in vivid and interesting colours). Biggs, the main character, is a likeable little fellow who compensates for his insatiable appetite with comic expressions and mischievious grins. The game's overall presentation isn't quite at the same high standard, but the adventure (displayed as a trail across the island) is easy to navigate and not so slow that it'll cause major frustration.

There isn't much sound to speak of, besides a few spitting and popping effects and some gentle background music, but other additions like trophy support and online rankings round off a nice PSN puzzler that moves closer to the sort of price point seen in the days of flOw and Blast Factor. With recent releases regularly reaching a tenner, it's nice to see a game arrive for less than a fiver. Though there might be a few tiny niggles from time to time, with the critter arrays sometimes set firmly against the player from the start, largely at random, the game is a thoroughly pleasant experience from start to finish. Daft science mixed with cute creatures and enjoyable puzzling is a winning formula, making Critter Crunch one of the better releases on the store.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Capybara Games

Developer:

Capybara Games

Players:

1-2

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2009-11-19

Trophies:

14

Review summary

Gameplay:

A comic plot combines well with addictive puzzling

Graphics:

Bright and shiny with cute animations

Sound:

All very simple, but adequate for the job

Lastability:

A weak multiplayer slightly hampers replay value

8.5

Supernova

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We do not comprehend the organic fascination of self-poisoning, auditory damage and sexually transmitted disease.