Exclusive interview: Crush for PSP

We chat to Kuju Brighton about its innovative, just-announced game

Exclusive interview: Crush for PSP
| Crush

The year is young, of course, but already the PSP has seen a number of new game announcements. Arguably the most interesting – if only for its intriguing and novel mix of 2D and 3D gameplay – has been Crush, which we detailed here when it was unveiled last week.

Suitably captivated, we wasted little time in tracking down someone at Kuju Brighton, the game's developer, who'd talk to us. It didn't take long to find senior producer Paul Mottram, who kindly answered the questions below.

Pocket Gamer: How did the concept for Crush come about? Paul Mottram: As with most great game ideas, it originated over a pint down the pub sometime in 2002. Ed Daly (Kuju Brighton's studio head) and I thought it would be great to mix 2D and 3D gameplay within a game, using perspective and orthographic views to allow a player to move around a world in a completely new and original way.

The idea was ever-present in our design meetings for about a year but we couldn't nail down the 'rule set'. Only when Alex Butterfield (lead designer) showed an interest in the project and sat down with his LEGO to try out some ideas did we finally crack it.

Was it originally designed specifically for the PSP?

The PSP seemed the ideal platform for this game. The structure of Crush means you can play for five minutes or several hours and still have a great experience, which is ideal for a handheld.

The relatively cheap development costs for the platform when compared to the next-gen consoles also allowed us to be a bit more adventurous with the game design and gave us a bit more freedom to try new things.

The game's look is particularly distinctive – what inspired the visuals?

Our lead artist, Jon Taylor, worked closely with Sega's creative department to come up with a unique style. Influences ranged from Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Mike Mignola, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst (or any of the surrealists), and Escher.

We wanted to have a darker side to the game which carries through into the art style and even music. The main character, Danny, isn't a superhero; he's a sarcastic miserable everyday guy who just wants to get some sleep.

We wanted the game to look drastically different when the player has crushed from 3D into 2D but still be recognisable from the 3D version. In 2D, we've removed a lot of the lighting and bolstered the saturation of the colour to give the game a much more flattened 2D feel, whilst darkening down the background so the player can focus on the world around them.

How does the 'crushing' dynamic work? Is there a limit to the number of times the environment can be switched between 3D and 2D, for instance?

Crushing enables the player to flatten the world, essentially – which can bring distant things close together, hide objects behind other objects, and bring out special 2D properties of blocks.

The player has full control over when they crush, which way, and where, which gives them an immense amount of freedom.

If the player tries to crush in front of a solid surface he will get squashed against it and can't move. However, we want the player to be able to try and crush whenever they want so after a quick cry of pain he's back to his normal self.

Primarily then, the player's limitations come from their environment. That said, there are additional game modes that provide limited crushes and time, to really stretch the more experienced players.

Is it possible to get a slightly deeper glimpse into the gameplay mechanics than those already revealed in the press release – for example, what is the nature of the challenges players can expect and how do the sphere and puzzle piece collectables affect the experience?

We'll be going more into depth about that next month – stay tuned!

What has proved the hardest aspect of Crush's development so far?

Where do I start… Trying to create something so new and unexplored like this presents many difficulties. Producing the basic rule set about how the world works in both 2D and 3D was a challenging experience, especially when you need to ensure it becomes second nature to the player after just a few minutes.

The camera system also provided a big headache, and a lot of the early pre-production work was spent on this. They're fundamental to the playing experience and took a lot of experimenting before we established exactly how they had to work.

Lastly, which aspect of the game are you happiest with?

The big grin on people's faces when they play it for the first time, and the fact that we managed to take such a simple concept and make a brilliantly fun experience out of it.