The Neo Geo Pocket Color was generally good at two things: housing a plethora of fighting games – all of which were from SNK – and being home to handheld puzzle titles. You will notice that I never mentioned the quality of these games. For the most part, the fighting games are simplistic versions of the SNK franchises whereas the puzzle games are the more mixed bag, if the bag was filled partly with small nuggets of gold and large lumps of something… er…
OK, it’s a bag full of shit. You happy now?
Given the simple nature of most puzzle games on handhelds and proper consoles, you’d have thought that the formula for decent puzzle games would have been sorted by now. Granted, we’ve now been over-saturated with the ‘Match 3’ puzzlers out there, but before then, we thought we were pretty much done with ideas. You had the 4-in-a-row types like Puyo Pop, Mean Bean Machine (which is Puyo Pop in a Sonic coat of paint) and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo Hyper Gamma Ray Microwave Buttercup Mega-
OH SHITTING’ HELL, ZANGIEF, JUST STOP THE FUCKING TABLE FLIPPING, OK? FUCKING HELL.
Fine, fine, fine. So, there were also classic games like Tetris and Columns as well as Puzzle Bobble that were also around. There were plenty of others, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, they’re either a little bit too complicated, a little bit shit or so disastrously unfair that it’s almost comedic.
Step forward Crush Roller – a puzzle game so bland, so repetitive, so offensively yawnsome that it actually makes me make to cry my eyes out with how appalling it is. And I don’t cry over games very often. I mean… Aerith dying… yeah. That’s a given. But I don’t cry over how bad something is.
GAMES THAT ARE BAD MAKE ME CRY, OK? CRUSH ROLLER JUST JOINED THIS CLUB.
So yes, it is a puzzle game of sorta but not in the same way most are. If anything… it’s more of an action puzzler. There are no bubbles or blocks to destroy and no lines to fill in, no tables to flip and literally NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE. This is REVERSE PAC-MAN and it is not good for being reverse Pac-Man because it’s appallingly poorly produced and an example of how a game OUGHT to be quite good… and just isn’t.
First things first, there’s no point in droning on about the story when there isn’t one. You’re basically a brush (exciting start to proceedings already) out to paint the roads, avoiding the blobs (ooh, the excitement just keeps building…) and once you’ve painted the whole lot, you get to do it all over again.
Across NOT MANY LEVELS.
Look, bearing in mind, I don’t play this very often because it’s so goddamned irritating, I have no idea how many levels this game has but given that in trial mode, there doesn’t appear to be many levels to traverse through, I suspect we’re not looking at a huge amount. Unless it’s lying to me and hiding hundreds of levels that I don’t even WANT to see.
So it turns out that this game is actually a rehash/update of a 1981 game that went by the name of Make Trax and the two blobs are in fact fish…
THOSE ARE NOT FISH AND IF THEY ARE, WHY ARE THEY NOT DEAD? ALREADY THIS GAME MAKES NO SENSE.
The whole concept is literally as bland as painting the roads and this ought to be really simple. It’s basically AVOID THE FISH-NOT-FISH, PAINT ALL ROADS, MOVE TO NEXT LEVEL.
Instead, it ends up being GET CAUGHT BY FISH-NOT-FISH, PAINT SOME ROADS, NEVER FINISH THE GAME.
This game is monumentally unfair beyond every reasonable doubt. There are so many things about this that could merely be functional – not good, I hasten to add, I don’t think you could add anything to this game to make it better than ‘meh’ – and yet somehow… they are not. Basically. You’d think it’d be easy to traverse through the levels using the glorious joystick of the Neo Geo Pocket Color and for the most part, it is responsive. Just not always enough. It is off-putting to think that this game SHOULD be a good example of how to implement tight controls, given that it’s a game whose sole controls involve using the up-down-left-right movements of the D-Pad/joystick.
SO HOW IS IT SO BAD? HOW DO YOU MESS UP THE ONLY MECHANIC THAT YOUR GAME HAS? ALL YOU DO IS TURN IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS AND YOU STILL COULDN’T QUITE GET THAT ONE RIGHT!
The problem with Crush Roller is, as previously mentioned, the fact that it is ridiculously unfair. There is literally NO margin for error with absolutely ANYTHING in this game. If you miss the turn by even the smallest of pixels, you will not make the turn at all and usually you’ll end up ploughing into an enemy because you’ve made a tiny error. There are a lot of games that give you at least some margin for error. They give you a chance to redeem yourself and slip out of a deadly situation in some way but this game basically throws you into the lion’s den and says ‘fuck you, you got yourself in there somehow, you get yourself out.’
And because the game runs entirely on being able to move about freely around the maze, the fact that the controls are really unfair to you, is what they would could ‘challenging’ but what everyone else would call ‘frustrating’ before ripping off the console’s screen and spitting into its electronics.
Now, graphically, it’s actually quite nice for a puzzle game (I still wonder whether to call it that but never mind, I’m not bothered cos this game is shit) as there are some nice background and locations so they at least tried to throw in some interesting ideas. The trees and houses, while simplistic, do at least give each level style a nice feel to it.
However… they also get in the way. A lot.
You see, the game’s major other problem – the biggest problem by some distance – is the unfairness of the objective. You have to paint EVERY road and every single PART of the road. You’d think that this would be easy, given that your paintbrush takes up the entire width of the road and swishes backwards and forwards to coat every bit of it.
EVERY. SINGLE. PIXEL. ON EVERY. SINGLE. ROAD. HAS TO BE COLOURED.
Which unfortunately means that you could paint the roads and think you’re done… and yet you’re not. You’ve missed a PIXEL somewhere… but this pixel could be anywhere. It could be under a bridge – which you won’t be able to see – or it could be hidden behind a part of the background/location – which you won’t be able to see – or it could even be a teeny tiny pixel in the corner of the stage – which you can but probably won’t be able to see.
For example: take a look here and so if you can spot where I’ve missed the road and can therefore not complete the level. I have to continue traversing this level until I either die several times and have to start again, or I haphazardly manage to find it and everything’s almost passable again.
IT COULD BE UNDER THE BRIDG- it’s right in the corner. It’s in the fucking corner. It’s three pixels. IT IS THREE. FUCKING. PIXELS.
AND IT IS IMMENSELY IRRITATING. THIS GAME IS NEVER RITATING. IT IS ALWAYS IRRITATING.
Losing a level purely on the basis of a technicality is mind-numbingly annoying because it really does not feel fair and I keep mentioning that this game is not fair and it bloody well isn’t fair! It’s a travesty of unfairness beyond every conceivable notion! ONE, TWO, THREE PIXELS ARE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND LOSING. Having to search for places you can’t see to be able to complete a level… it’s bad game design. it’s not ‘challenging’ – it’s just plain shit game design.
What’s even worse are the FISH-NOT-FISH that chase you in each level are for the most part FASTER THAN YOU. This is another way of getting the game to ‘challenge’ you in some way but in fact, it is – YOU FUCKING GUESSED IT – so unfair, it’s not even real. The red fish-not-fish in particular run around at almost twice your speed. The purple ones are faster than you, the yellow ones are faster than you by a small margin while the blue ones are ever-so-slightly slower than you are. But more than likely they will still kill you.
And because the controls are so abominable and the AI of the enemies is so OTT, Crush Roller feels like a ball-busting RAGEFEST. The amount of times I rage-quit on this game purely because it was so unfair on me is well into double figures now.
The game’s only power-up, of sorts, is the paint roller that can kill enemies. It travels up or down one specific piece of road and if you get on it in the right direction, it will speed off down the road and crush anything in its path. And although this is incredibly USEFUL at clutch moments, it feels underused. It feels as though the way this game is made is underdone in general but there have been a plethora of opportunities for this game to do something different, try something new and give the player an interesting experience… and yet the only other game mechanic we get are random characters appearing on the game field and ruining our hard work by stamping shapes onto the paint.
They aren’t ENEMIES as such because all you need to do is rail into them and you catch them. They then become part of your collectio- OH FUCK. I’M NOT DOING THIS SHIT AGAIN. PUZZLE LINK ALREADY DID THIS WITH ME. I’M NOT COLLECTING SHIT FOR NO GODDAMNED REASON.
No, apparently, we will be. If they ruin our paintwork, we’ll have to roll over it again. See… this I can take to a point because it does at all keep you on your toes. You can actually complete a level before they come out because you can die in the level three times and never see them at all!
I say three times, you only get three lives… but infinite continues. So the whole concept of lives seems a bit redundant. Yes, you have to start the level again with each continue but the only thing that gets lost here is your pride… because you played this game. Instead of something better.
The sense of achievement I got from this game was pretty much nullified when I realised that I wasn’t actually enjoying Crush Roller. At not point did I think to myself that the game was good in any way. At no point did I genuinely think that I wanted to complete this game because I had no idea as to what the point was. In gaming, not knowing WHY you’re playing… is pretty shocking to be honest. I mean, if the point was to have fun, then they failed miserably on this one. If there were power-ups that added something to the game, then fine. If there were fairer enemies or at least different enemy types, then fine. If you only had to complete a specific percentage of the maps, then fine. I could accept all of those and then maybe – MAYBE – this game would have been closer to the Sorta tag.
But even then we’d be pushing it.
To think that I couldn’t even have a small hint of fun with this game is disturbing. It’s almost as much fun as actual painting. But sometimes actual painting ends with getting paint on your arms and peeling it off.
And ripping off arm hairs.
Ripping off arm hairs is more fun than this.
And suffice to say: I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU.