Saturday 29 August 2020

Crush Roller (Neo Geo Pocket Color review)

Developer: ADK
Publisher: SNK
Released: 1999

Crush Roller is a maze game that was first released in the Arcades as Make Trax (1981).

Playing as a brush, your job is to paint the entire playfield in order to complete the stage. Monsters will try to hunt you down, but rollers are available that allow you to squash them. The gameplay is clearly inspired by Pac-Man (1980, Arcades), but it has just enough tweaks to make it unique, including multi-story platforms and Irksters that leave footprints in your painted sections that must be re-painted. There's only six stages per game, but the genius part is that you'll need to play through several times in order to see all of the levels; that's because you usually have a choice between what stage to tackle next, adding some excellent replayability. The Irksters are an important part of the gameplay, as while it's irritating when they walk over previously covered paths, trying to catch them as quickly as possible is an enjoyable diversion while forcing you to multitask. This can become addictive, as the main menu offers a Collection mode where you can view all of your captured Irksters in a similar fashion to the Pokemon series. The controls work well, but compared to the precision of a d-pad, the console's analog stick does cause issues with incorrect movements; this is somewhat remedied by only pressing a direction when you need to (rather than continually holding the stick), but it does take a slight adjustment period. Another minor gripe is that it can sometimes be tricky to see the final part of the maze you haven't yet covered; while wide open spaces are obvious, curved corners only leave a tiny visible mark to indicate that you haven't yet painted it, and with the handheld's small screen it can be tough to see.

Crush Roller is short but sweet, and its bite-sized approach to completing its main campaign is perfect for a handheld title. The need to complete it several times to see all of its stages adds plenty of replayability, and despite some initial struggles with the controls it's an addictive maze game, especially when you factor in its Collection mode.

Random trivia: ADK developed various other Neo Geo Pocket Color games including Dynamite Slugger (2000) and Party Mail (1999).

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