There are lots of cute things in this world; Labrador puppies, Giant Panda Cubs sliding down a chute, or Otters making human gestures with their paws. Though none of these compare to the characters in Critter Crunch, Capybara Games début on the PlayStation Network.
You control Biggs, the titular critter. As an inhabitant of Krunchatoa Island, Biggs` behaviour is monitored by Hank Hudson, a David Attenborough style Naturalist who is studying their evolution and feeding habits, the latter being the very essence of the game.
Biggs is required to eat the inhabitants of Krunchatoa who are placed above him on a grid of vines. Luckily Biggs is blessed with a gigantic tongue which he can use to re-arrange the smallest animals to eat one another or, in the vernacular of the game, create a “food chain”. After a set amount is cleared, the level is complete and the next can be accessed.
It turns out that Biggs has a very strong paternal instinct. In a display of fatherly love he literally showers his progeny (imaginatively called Smalls) with food via a stream of rainbow barf. Usually this would be the cue to call Social Services, but in the world of Critter Crunch it`s a sign of deep affection. Albeit one that must be strenuously avoided in real life…
While Biggs is engaged in his attempt to win Dad of the Year, the island inhabitants that he is meant to be eating move relentlessly down the screen, so a balancing act between feeding and clearing must be observed at all times. Luckily help is at hand in the form of Power Foods. These take the shape of Watermelon pips, which can be used to eliminate any form of animal or Garlic, which will move all animals back up a level, accompanied by a laugh out loud moment thanks to the wonderful animation.
As each area in Adventure mode is unlocked and more Power Foods are introduced, instead of becoming bogged down with too many ideas, Critter Crunch really starts to shine. There quickly comes the realisation that it`s merely giving the player the tools to progress their scores and, more importantly, keep things interesting and fresh – no mean feat in a puzzle game. Even though there is a rich and deep level to Critter Crunch, you could sit just about any member of the family down and, regardless of their gaming history, teach them the basics in next to no time.
Adventure Mode is merely the jumping off point in Critter Crunch and the amount of modes on offer is almost bewildering on times. The excellent Challenge Mode invokes memories of the similar mode in Lumines, featuring a strict move list that, while initially daunting, leaves the player smacking their forehead when they realise the solution has been staring them in the face all along. With full cooperative online and offline play as well as Versus mode, the game really is a complete package that will have anyone entertained for many, many hours to come.
No question, Critter Crunch has to be one of THE most achingly beautiful games released, not only for the downloadable services, but in general. The quality of the hand drawn animation is just unsurpassed and if anyone can name another title that comes close to touching Critter Crunch`s level of artistry, this reviewer would most definitely love to see it. And this visual fidelity isn’t just reserved for the main characters either. The incidental detail in the backgrounds can be distracting as you notice a friendly squid appear and wave at you on the main hub screen, or witness a translucent Willow-the-Wisp styled inhabitant bob merrily back and forth under their own momentum. To say the game is a feast for the eyes is an understatement and testament to the quality of the artistic talent at Capybara.
Jam-packed with modes, a level of detail and polish that is unsurpassed and graced with more game modes than you can shake a stick at, even the most hardened cynic who happily sneers at anything remotely fluffy will be smitten in next to no time with the excellent gameplay and attention to detail. Critter Crunch is a must-have title.