Crush3D preview Hands-on with the multi-dimensional puzzle platformer

At first glance, Crush3D just looks like a platformer with a gimmick, but at its heart it’s a brain twisting puzzler. Collecting 20 marbles to move on to the next level doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of fun, but using the game’s Crush power to unveil unseen paths through dimensional manipulation in order to collect those marbles ends up being an interesting concept and can certainly make for some entertaining puzzles.

To solve the puzzles in Crush3D, the player must change the structure of each level based on the perspective of the camera. Levels consist of a floating mass of platforms, walls, and objects like soda cans and bowling balls. The game world can be viewed from four different angles by rotating the camera from a side-scrolling perspective as well as a top-down view in 2D and 3D. Switching between 2D and 3D is called “crushing” which can be activated at any time by pressing the L button. From 3D, crushing brings all platforms, walls, and objects that are in view flat up against the screen and back again when activated a second time.

Crushing enables players halted by a large gaps and impenetrable walls to flatten out of existence or alter them so they are passable. For instance, a platform may be too high to reach, but moving the camera to the top-down position then crushing moves all of the platforms to one 2D plane, allowing players to walk to the previously unreachable area. But Crush3D’s puzzles get much more complicated than simply piecing paths together.

Different walls and platform textures have unique properties. Sand and plain white walls will become intangible when in 2D allowing players to walk or fall through them, but will act as a solid mass in 3D. Other walls, usually made of metal, always remain solid and will literally crush you if you are standing on the wrong side of the 2D plane when alternating dimensions.

Much of the challenge of the game revolves around finding the right view that will allow the player to push a ball onto a switch, get around walls, bridge gaps, or grab marbles from a reachable perspective. Collecting half of the level’s total marbles allows players to progress to the next level. Those who want a little extra challenge (and a few unlockable goodies like character skins and concept art) can attempt to collect every marble along with each level’s hidden trophy and art book.

Crush3D starts off slow with just a few simple puzzles but continuously adds new obstacles and rules as players progress. It is possible to complete a level in just a few minutes, but some can go on for much longer than that as they become more complex or if you're trying to grab every last marble. If you get stuck, there's a help button that will activate a short cutscene showing the next step, but using the hint system will deduct marbles from your level score making it impossible to get perfect level scores and unlock rewards.

There are 40 levels to play through, over 100 unlockables, and a time trial mode available for completionists, making Crush3D a portable puzzler to keep an eye on. Crush3D hits store shelves on March 6 for the 3DS, so look for our review then.