I was listening to the Kermode and Mayo podcast the other day, during which the two were joined by Joss Whedon, who was there to talk about his recently released take on Much Ado About Nothing. Kermode affectionately referred to the film as a palate cleanser, and this description seemed to mildly irritate Whedon.
So I hope Luke Schneider doesn't take offence when I talk of Crush in similar terms. Like Much Ado, it was made in a comparatively short space of time (five weeks rather than 12 days, but that's still pretty brisk for a game of any kind), yet the result is equally refreshing, stylishly presented and engaging.
It's a puzzle game with a disarmingly simple hook: a pile of blocks in three different colours appears on the screen, like a half-full Tetris or Lumines session, and your job is to tap groups of connecting tiles to remove them before the screen fills up. The twist? Each time you tap, the pile surges downward.
If in doubt, buy your parents something you want and reclaim at a later date - a useful mantra handed down from generation to generation. I once bought my sister a CD that will remain nameless for shame purposes, even though she had no flashy machinery to play it on. But I did. So, when I suggested she hand the disc to me and keep the cassette recording I had selflessly made for herself, I was expecting nothing but cooperation. Bloody witch didn't see it like that though, did she? Threw a right strop. Ungrateful. But looking back at my foolish youth of yester-year I can see how much I have changed. She lives in China for a start, so no need to get her anything. Present for sister: tick.
Originality. An uncertain concept when applied to games. Remember when it actually used to be one of the criteria for scores in games mags, alongside that ephemeral spectre, Playability? Most of us claim to crave it, professing boredom with regurgitated sequels and me-too titles that merely ride on the shoulders of last year's big hits. Yet when games come along that actually boast innovative thinking they usually die a brief and merciless death, shunted aside in the sales charts for... regurgitated sequels and me-too titles.
It's enough to make you wonder why developers even bother switching their creative brains on and, it often seems, many of them don't. One day someone will release a first-person driving and shooting sports game in which you must thunder through famous battles of World War II in a customised import sports car so you can take part in the FA Cup Final, and at that point every videogame and console in the world will implode into frozen angel tears, and you'll sink to your knees and unleash bitter cries of sorrow into a dark and unfeeling cosmos.
But, hey, before that dark day comes a-calling, at least we're still getting games like Crush - a puzzler-platformer that takes a Tarantino approach to original thinking, borrowing recognisable elements from several other cult hits but twisting them into something that feels entirely new. Our hero is Danny, an insomniac strapped into C.R.U.S.H, a mad professor's brain machine. This device enables Danny to wander around the landscape of his subconscious, putting everything in order so that he might sink into the fluffy bosom of blissful sleep.