Puzzle games are a dime a dozen, but good puzzle games are a rare breed. In my video game life, I've probably played Tetris, Tetris Attack (Panel de Pon in Japan), and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo the most, and not in that particular order. So, when Critter Crunch completely consumes my attention at hours on end, you know something's right.
Since checking the game out at E3, Critter Crunch gameplay showed a lot of potential and promise as a good puzzle game. The concept follows a simple food-chain system where you feed smaller critters to larger critters. Feed them enough, and they pop and unleash their jeweled innards to consume. Also, there's only 3 different-sized critters, so there's no confusion about what consumes what.
The game also includes your standard fare of powerups and special critters which make the game an even bigger challenge. I only wished that all of them were revealed earlier on, instead of distributing them evenly across the adventure mode.
When you tire of adventure mode, there's also puzzle, challenge, and survival mode to test your skills. All three modes live up to their name, especially challenge mode. However, the randomly-generated starting screen can be often times unforgivably difficult, making challenges much harder than they usually are, and making adventure mode progression a luck-of-the-draw restarting game.
Multiplayer is also fun to play whether in co-op or versus, but if you haven't progressed through adventure mode, some of the later items will be brand new to you. And even if you have seen all the new items, there's nothing in it telling you about the multiplayer-only items that appear during the matches. Like the one powerup that makes your opponent feel like he took a cocktail of drugs and is tripping balls. Nothing like a whole lotta "wtf" to get you cursing.
Despite puking your contents into your son's mouth for bonus points, Critter Crunch is nowhere near the craziness of my favorite puzzle games. It's a good challenge, but it's more a frustrating challenge than an "I think I can do better" challenge. But it has a spot in my list of games to kill away 5 minutes. Or 5 hours.