By most accounts, the maze game genre has had its day. Pac-Man and the imitators it spawned were eventually overshadowed as games became more complex and arcade space was at a premium. However, with so many genres returning to prominence lately due to unlimited digital shelving, as well as the growing popularity of phones fostering simplicity over complexity, it’s a marvel that more people haven’t attempted new things in maze games recently. I can think of two off the top of my head, Pix The Cat and the game I’ll be focusing on today.
Crystal Chip Collector is one of the first instances I’ve come across where a main character speaks like a gamer. When I say gamer here, I don’t mean you and me, I mean what people think of when someone says gamer with a drawn out cadence and a harsh tone. He’s a snot nosed ten year old who is introduced to us just as he needs to upgrade his PC to keep up with the latest patches for a Call of Duty-type game. I will ignore the nonsensical fact that he’s playing Call of Duty on a PC and instead applaud the developer for capturing the exact persona of this character. Every word is perfectly misspelled, every slang term abused, and every nicety thrown his way is tossed aside in the name of impatience.
Thankfully, you don’t play as this child, you instead play as a cat. Or at least it looks like a cat. It’s also clearly just a giant furball with legs and a face. Anyway, this cat’s goal is to climb into the child’s computer and collect enough new computer chips to clean out his machine and give him the perfect FPS experience. There are two colors of chips you must collect, but only one color is active at a time. The chips and the color changing switches are all scattered across an array of platforms, and each level has a strict time limit that encourages speed over precision.
Each level is a compressed maze, with one set way to efficiently run through to get everything. You can stumble your way through the first set of levels, but after that the pace gets quicker and the game demands that you recognize the patterns it’s putting in front of you. In a way, it feels like a successor to Mighty Bomb Jack, complete with its abstract concepts and off the wall sense of humor. It would be fascinating to see a speedrunner go through and stretch the game to its limits given its clear arcade roots.
The graphics and sounds are classic, with expressive pixel art and a powerful jumping noise that allows you to pay attention to the level rather than the character. The game does have a few control hitches; I noticed several times that the game would lag and not register my jumps. This might be because the game runs at a very small resolution and is forced fullscreen, which did cause some other issues with programs I had running in the background while playing. It does pull through most of the time though, and when it is working the controls are tight.
The game is currently priced at $5 on itch.io if you don’t want to wait for the possible Steam release. It’s a simple little distraction that does what it sets out to do well, and the theme is a welcome change amidst the endless zombie survival and voxel crafting games vying for your votes. If you like what you see here, go ahead and give it a thumbs up. If you need to see more, check out the Scouting Party I did on the title for a peek at the early levels and a lot of annoying kid dialogue.
I hope you enjoyed my first crack at To The Green. Don will be back next week and we’ll alternate going forward. Do you know a game that’s in Greenlight that you think we should take a look at? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below!