Game Reviews

Critter Crunch

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Critter Crunch

Having a pest problem is never a pleasant experience. Nature has thrown up a wide variety of troublesome creatures that possess an uncanny knack of making your life a misery. The usual solution is to call in the professionals, but for cuddly jungle inhabitant Biggs – who finds his beloved homestead invaded by a wide range of irksome critters – flicking through the Yellow Pages for a local exterminator simply isn't an option.

Thankfully, our fluffy hero is equipped with a more graceful solution. The pesky critters that have encroached on his precious living space come in a range of sizes and although Biggs may bear a passing resemblance to a hairball, he's smart enough to know that big things eat little things. Such is the way of the world.

By lashing out his enormous tongue, he can grab one of the offending critters, store it temporally in his mouth and then hurl it into the waiting maw of a larger pest. These unsavoury creatures have eyes bigger than their bellies and after a bout of chronic overeating they promptly explode, showering tasty gemstones that conveniently happen to be our protagonist's favourite dish. Yum!

The creatures in question come in three sizes. Feeding two smaller critters to a larger one will cause it to explode, which also happens when feeding a critter that has already eaten (this is indicated by a full, satisfied look on the face of the monster) to a larger critter.

However, it's not just size you have to contend with – colour comes into play as well. While the 'food chain' concept is the main focus of the game, popping a critter of a certain colour will cause those adjacent to it to also explode, providing they are of the same hue.

This causes a satisfying chain reaction and it's possible to produce dazzling combinations using this method. These not only help keep the critters at bay but also result in more gems for Biggs to chow down on, which in turn assists in filling his 'hunger' gauge more swiftly. Once it reaches the top, the level is over.

It's not just sustenance that Biggs is getting from his critter popping. Should these insalubrious animals reach the bottom of the screen they immediately turn malevolent and make a meal of our corpulent hero – which, as you might expect, spells 'game over' to you, the player.

With such a solid core concept you'd have forgiven developer Capybara for leaving it there, but it's added other variables into the mix as well.

Certain critters drop power-ups that make life a little easier for Biggs: the melon segment enables him to spit pips at the advancing critters to clear breathing space; the hot chilli item creates a wall of flame that eradicates an entire row of creatures; and the garlic icon allows Biggs to force the unpleasant pests further up the screen using his stinky breath.

Throw in other elements such as Toxic Critters (these must be dealt with promptly before they infect surrounding critters), Bomb Critters (feed any two critters to one of these and it explodes, taking out any surrounding pests) and Block Critters (resilient to Biggs' tongue and other critters) and you've got a wonderfully full-bodied and diverse experience.

The first ten levels gently ease you into proceedings, slowly but surely drip-feeding special items and tactics via helpful pre-stage tutorials. As you advance, things become as hot as the jungle in which Critter Crunch takes place – survival becomes an invigorating race against the relentless hordes, as you manically reorganise the critters to maximise combo potential.

Graphically, Critter Crunch is nothing short of stunning. The visuals are simply sumptuous, with each sprite intricately detailed and literally bursting (no pun intended) with expression.

The look of sheer terror as a critter is propelled into the drooling jaws of a larger predator is particularly priceless, and the silky-smooth animation adds to this striking aesthetic package. The game is no slouch in the aural department, either, with cheerful tribal music helping to round everything off in perfect fashion.

Because the gameplay is so involving and frenetic, Critter Crunch neatly sidesteps the usual pitfall that the vast majority of puzzlers fall foul of – repetitiveness. And although mobile games are usually played in small bursts, here it's not unusual to find yourself popping critters for well over an hour.

The addition of an ingenious Puzzle mode – which gives you a screen full of critters and a set number of moves in which to eradicate them all – adds even more value to a game that is effortlessly able to steal a huge chunk of time away from your dedicated portable and home consoles.

That's because Critter Crunch is everything you could possibly want from a mobile video game, and more. The presentation is second to none, the challenge is pitched perfectly and the gameplay is fun and absurdly addictive.

Critter Crunch

In terms of graphics, gameplay and challenge, Critter Crunch has the competition well and truly licked. A must-have mobile release that rivals most software found on 'dedicated' gaming platforms
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.