Gotta Goo Fast
One of the most important things a game can do is elicit an emotional response. An adventure game can leave you gobsmacked, horror games are self-explanatory, and any game with strong writing can cut to the core thanks to the immersive nature of the medium. A game lives or dies by how it makes you feel; it’s easy to forget one that just didn’t click with you for one reason or another. I could write an entire essay about that topic alone but that’s for another day. The reason I bring it up is because I recently played Crumble, and it isn’t often that I come across a game that’s so capable of eliciting nonstop joy.
From the very beginning Crumble wants you to know you’re here for a good time that it’s prepared to deliver. You’re plopped into a beautiful sunny forest, taught the game’s controls (move, jump, tongueswing, that’s it) and from that point on are set loose in increasingly creative and ridiculous levels that leverage that moveset to the fullest. If you thought swinging around in Spider-Man or Bionic Commando was a good time, friend, you owe it to yourself to play a game laser-focused on that single idea. Doubly so when you’re playing as the lovechild of a Dragon Quest slime and Gooey from Kirby, a coupling so unholy that I refuse to continue this sentence.
Inspirations abound in Crumble’s design but the real innovation here, odd as it sounds, is speed. I cannot think of another game focused on swinging and momentum that GOES like Crumble. With a few swings back to back you can build so much speed that it can be overwhelming early on. You’ll careen off ledges, attempt to sling yourself over a gap only to fire yourself directly into it, and hit collapsible obstacles so hard that you never get a chance to hop off of them before the abyss takes you. And those failures? They feel GOOD. You’ll be excited to try again and again because nailing slick moves at Mach 5 is satisfaction incarnate, and when you finally complete that sequence that was giving you trouble it’s all aboard the dopamine train going straight to Serotonin Town. Choo choo motherfucker.
Eventually you will get a handle on Crumble’s speed and the game ramps up accordingly. By the time you’re deftly slinging through a hurricane or playing a much more literal version of The Floor is Lava you won’t be making mistakes because you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll make them because you tried a cool trick and didn’t quite stick the landing. It’s a thrill ride that you have full control over and the later levels are perfectly calibrated to let you go buck wild. The fact that there’s secrets to find and performance-based stars that unlock bonus levels on top of everything else just gives you more reasons to do sections again, only differently.
The game doesn’t just have room for creativity, it upends the entire toolbox and offers to get you more. Get enough momentum and you can get away with ludicrous feats that skip entire chunks of levels. Is there a platforming section in front of you? You could do that the obvious way, but maybe if you get up some speed by swinging under them instead of over you don’t even need to bother. Or Hell, if you arrive to that section fast enough you may not ever need to touch blob to ground! Almost every level is chock full of potential exploits that I have to imagine are a speedrunner’s dream. A lesser game would feel worse for doing this, but the critical point here is that Crumble KNOWS what you’re here for and is built around it. Go fast! Ruin those leaderboards! Collect the stars for obliterating the par time! That’s literally what they’re there for!
Playing Crumble is like hooking your controller directly up to the parts of your brain that squirt the good chemicals. I don’t think I can understate just how well this game plays, how great it looks in motion, and how much fun I had with it once I got the hang of it. You won’t just redo levels because you missed the par star by a hair, you’ll do them because you WANT to just to see what you can get away with. Precious few games provide so much satisfaction every single moment of play; there just isn’t a single moment of Crumble that’ll leave you bored. It’s a hell of a feat.
To summarize as simply as possible: swinging feels good. Going fast feels good. Crumble delivers on both perfectly. Do you like those things? Play Crumble. It’ll make you happy.
Reviewed on Steam.