Crush! Deluxe is an odd game in that it's got an interesting premise and gameplay but an unbalanced and ultimately flawed execution. It is a turn-based strategy inspired by full contact sports in the vein of rugby and hockey. On the field of play, there are three teams competing for one very important thing: the BALL, or Bionically Augmented Lower Lifeform. The BALL is hidden in one of the randomly placed containers that potentially hold nothing more than a nasty trap. When a team successfully grabs the BALL and takes it all the way to the goal, they win.
As mentioned before, the gameplay is turn-based. Contests take place on a 32x32-field grid. When you pick your team and recruit your players, they can enter the playing field one at a time. Each player has a certain number of action points per turn and you must use them wisely. With the right amount of action points, you can move your player or have him attack an opponent. Also, the more they move and play, the more experience they accumulate. You can then apply that experience to a player's other skills and really build your team up. Augmenting this ploy is the option to have your players sneak in illegal weapons and objects in an attempt to cheat. If they're caught, though, they are removed from the game. It all depends on the strategy you set up and the risks you're willing to take.
This brings me to the micro-management portion of the game. It is here where you must do all your recruiting and assign skill points. There are over nine different alien races from which you can recruit. You can also buy team equipment and weapons (including the illegal ones) with the money you earn from wins. What prevents you from building up a super team is a whole set of rules and regulations about player caps and salaries, roster limits, etc. It really begins to feel like you're managing some sort of sports team.
The problem is that while you're spending all your time building up your team players and giving them the necessary skills in the management portion of the game, the actual turn-based strategy portion seems reduced to luck more than anything. You do not know where the BALL is and the computer can sneak in illegal weapons to kill your defenders or attackers. You can spend time setting up all kinds of strategy to get the BALL only to have a stray computer player come down and annihilate your defense and, even more frustrating, the BALL handler.
This unbalanced gameplay severely detracts from the overall experience. Fortunately, there is decent multiplayer support in which you can compete in tournaments and all sorts of professional leagues. This is actually quite fun and almost makes up for the single-player shortcomings. So basically, if you're looking for something that is a bit different, then you may want to try Crush! Deluxe. While it is unbalanced, it can be surprisingly fun at times (especially on the Internet), but just not consistently so.
Graphics: The player graphics are very simplistic looking and the fields look very bland.
Sound: Substandard sound effects mixed with a boring soundtrack make it abysmal to listen to.
Enjoyment: Crush! Deluxe can be a fun game at times but it can also be very frustrating. The problem lies within the unbalanced gameplay.
Replay Value: The net play is very good and there are lots of options for leagues and tournaments. This does wonders for extending its life.
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