The cute-and kinda gross-puzzler that's had iPhone users bursting bugs for sometime now, finally infects the PlayStation 3 with the same addictive, arachnid-munching action.
Controlling Biggs, a tubby, cuddly creature, players snap up bugs with his tongue from an above board (that's a cross between Space Invaders and Donkey Kong Jr.) and feed them to other creepy crawlies. The goal being to burst their bellies, and eat the jewels that spill from their adorable innards. Once Biggs has gobbled up enough sparkly stones, his hunger meter fills and he moves onto the next level.
Simple, Yet Super-satisfying: Critter Crunch's concept will be familiar to anyone who's ever cleared a board or filled a meter in any other puzzle game, but the execution is complemented by solid gameplay and enough variety to keep you engaged throughout. Shooting out Biggs' big tongue—it puts Yoshi's lengthy licker to shame—players gobble bugs, then spit them into bigger bugs. When an insect is fed two unlucky bottom-feeders, it bursts, dropping a jewel to satisfy the void in Biggs' ample belly. Once the hunger meter fills, it's time to move on to the next buggy buffet.
Strategy enters into the food-chain fun when you arrange bugs so they can eat each other, or chain like-ones together to clear a large portion of the board with a single burst. When you do this, Biggs' hungry son waddles out, and you'll make daddy vomit a rainbow of big bonus points into his mouth. Additional variety comes from skilled insect species that can do things such as spill hunger meter-siphoning poison. Outside the lengthy adventure" mode, Critter Crunch's charm and challenge translates to "Puzzle" and "Challenge" games, as well as scary-addictive local and online multiplayer.
Gorgeous and Gross: Critter Crunch's puzzling action unfolds over beautifully rendered hand-drawn 2D visuals. Biggs, the bottom-of-the-food-chain bugs, and the lush backgrounds all pop off the screen with Pixar-like crispness. Additionally, animations are surprisingly detailed for a PSN puzzler; from fluttering flies' wings to Biggs' satisfied chomping, everything animates with eye-catching fluidity. Even the gross-out moments are made more cute than stomach-churning-Biggs barfing rainbows into his son's maw is a highlight.
Perfect Pacing: My biggest complaint with most puzzle games is that they're often pathetically easy in the early stages, then have you yanking your hair out by the later levels. With Critter Crunch, though, I was never bored or frustrated by the pacing. Don't misunderstand, it gets super tough late in the "Adventure" mode. However, by the time the action gets frenzied, your brain and reflexes have been taught to keep up. And, even when the arachnid army does manage to overwhelm Biggs, you should find it more fair than unnecessarily frustrating.
A relatively simple puzzle game concept is nicely complemented by appropriately paced challenge and an engaging presentation that manages to be adorably charming without ever becoming annoyingly cute.
Critter Crunch was developed and published by Capybara Games for PSN on September 30th. Retails for $6.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed Adventure mode on normal difficulty and participated in multiplayer modes on the PlayStation 3.
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