Hands-on: Critter Crunch

You've got an iPhone, right? If so you may have stumbled across this game already on the App Store. Critter Crunch is a puzzle game by Canadian developer Capybara Games which is being ported to the PlayStation Network for release this summer. This is a lot more than a simple port, however, as the game will be completely reworked to take advantage of the PS3's high definition output and online features.

Critter Crunch is a puzzle game in which you play as the adorable Biggs -- as seen winking in the logo above -- who is constantly being attacked by critters from above. His method of keeping the ever-encroaching hoard at bay is simple: feed them to each other. Small critters feed medium critters which feed large critters and, once full, they pop and take with them any similar colored critters that sit adjacent to them. It's kind of gruesome in an adorable sort of way.

This basic mechanic has survived the transition onto the PS3, but it's brought friends. The PSN version will have many more levels, critters, modes and features. As those who have seen the trailer will no doubt be happy to hear, the PSN version will feature nature documentary style animated cutscenes, all completed (as the in-game animations are) by a single animator.
The colorful artwork is a great hook for the game. It'll draw you in and then sink its teeth with its simple, yet deep, addictive gameplay. One new gameplay feature in the PSN version involves feeding Biggs' son, who wanders on screen every so often, by rainbow vomiting into his mouth by holding a button. Doing so will increase your score, but will also speed up the descent of the approaching critters, adding an aspect of risk-and-reward to the game.

The PSN version also supports offline and online multiplayer -- both co-op and competitive. Competitive multiplayer is similar to Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, in that collecting points via combos will result in more critters appearing on your opponent's side of the screen. In co-operative mode a second player will play as Biggs' son. Adorable.

Capybara Games' Nathan Vella told us that they shopped the game around to all three major publishers for their various digital content delivery systems and couldn't say enough nice things about Sony's support, despite the game being self-published by the developers. Speaking on Sony's PhyreEngine, Vella extolled its virtues, saying that it allowed them to focus on creating a fun game, rather than spending a lot of time navigating the PS3's complicated architecture and building from scratch. Encouraging words for independant developers interested in getting their game onto the PSN.

Vella also told us that Critter Crunch was destined for the PSP one day, though work hasn't yet started on it. He said he'd loved to "have Critter Crunch running on the Go" -- as would we. The idea behind Critter Crunch may be simple, but its cutesy, colorful aesthetic and added features in the PS3 version makes it a worthy addition to the PSN's summer lineup. If you're interested in getting a taste of what's to come, check out the iPhone version on the App Store now.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.