Crush, much like Nintendo's Paper Mario series, explores the mind-bending possibilities of living in multiple dimensions. The game takes place within the complex psyche of Danny, an insomniac with exceptionally poor taste in health-care providers. Zany headshrinker Dr. Reubens fits Danny with an experimental gizmo that translates the subconscious into complex mazes. Clad in a bathrobe, like The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy's Arthur Dent, Danny must traverse and conquer these dreamy constructs. Peppered throughout his mental labyrinths are Kafka-esque roaches, lost marbles, and puzzle pieces of memories—all standard issue video-game features, until the game's "crush" mechanic comes into play. Danny's three-dimensional mind mazes can be viewed at any angle, then smashed flat, compressing distances, smashing troublesome insects, and revealing new ways to achieve seemingly insurmountable tasks.
Crush satisfies the innate gamer need to express the world in easy-to-manipulate numbers and objects. Simultaneously, it plays with form. Like The Wizard Of Oz's jump from black and white to color, it targets a technological sea change (in this case, the leap between old-school 2D graphics and modern 3D) and exploits it in a wildly imaginative way.
Beyond the game: Crush joins The Cube, PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient 2, and Puzzle Scape in a fairly crowded market of abstract PSP puzzlers. Crush is the only one with such an imaginative premise. But all owe a great debt to the classic PlayStation 1 game Intelligent Qube.
Worth playing for: Dimensional compression is visceral. Danny stomps his slippered foot and the world flattens with a whoosh, smashing pesky bugs with a satisfying splat. This must be what it felt like to be Edwin Abbott Abbott.
Frustration sets in when: Occasionally, Danny is asked to perform acrobatic feats better left to Mario and his ilk. He's slow and clumsy in his pajamas, and not always up to the task.
Final judgment: Until they come up with a video-game version of the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, Crush will do nicely.