Crush Crush is a very recent game that combines elements from idle games and dating sim. Even in its beta status, the title stands for itself with unique features like time blocks tgat add a strategy and management spice to it.
From dating sims, the most obvious element inherited is the girls. Everyone you meet is due to an unfortunate event, from making the gamer girl have a breakdown after beating her high score to crashing the tomboy’s bike beyond repair. On the plus side, once you hit rock bottom, you can only go up, and that’s where gameplay takes place. Once each girl is unlocked you will have to meet certain requisites to walk up a step in the relationship, for the nuisance that screwed their day to their special someone.
The idle elements of the game include the jobs and hobbies tabs. With jobs, you’ll earn money required to buy gifts and go on dates, which work both as requirements and quick ways to increase the affection meters. The job bars will fill automatically on their own, giving you the job’s paycheck at a fixed rate. Once you “go to work” enough times, you’ll get promoted, getting paid more for the same job. Each one of these jobs requires a different amount of time blocks, but you can deselect a job when it stops being profitable or for any other reason.
The other idle feature is the hobbies that are tied to an individual skill each. These will be unlocked after reaching certain steps in specific girls’ relationship and have several purposes. The most immediate one is the minimum of one hobby demanded to reach the next level with a lass. Another use is unlocking new jobs, each one having two hobbies you must level up to a certain point. Last but not least, each girl has a favored trait, and the more you increase that hobby, the faster her affection will rise on its own. This will save you a lot of clicking and gift giving.
The unique element of Crush Crush is time blocks, as previously mentioned. These works as a sort of currency that are temporarily used up with hobbies and jobs. While the former use up three regardless of the one you choose, each job uses up a different amount of blocks, from as few as three to up twenty or more. Dates also require having between three and six unused blocks, depending on where you take the girl. Do not fret, though, because there are many ways to get additional time blocks as you play, and you’ll need every single one of them.
As most idle games, Crush Crush has an achievement system, and focusing on earning them will benefit you both on the short and long run. Every four achievements you get will grant you an extra time block to your original six, and you will keep them through soft resets. Also, every individual achievement earned will add a x0.05 multiplier that will stack and take effect as soon as you reset. These multipliers are additive, which means that the multiplier will go from x1.00, the beginning, to x1.05, adding another 0.05 to that multiplier for every achievement earned. This bonus affects how fast the job bars fill to earn money faster and get promotions quicker, as well as the hobby bars and the cooldown for actions with girls. This means you can talk to them and give them gifts more often, and the dates will be shorter.
The game has been out for less than two weeks, and its status as a beta is more than clear. There’s a lot that requires polishing for the time being, including the incremental time requirements for hobbies. They become way too demanding even after getting a mid-to-high multiplier thanks to achievements. The people behind the game keep working on polishing the edges and adding new features. They welcome feedback from the community that points out bugs and offer possible features the game would benefit from.
When it comes to the development and future plans of the game, Complete Game Reviews contacted the team behind Crush Crush, Sad Panda Studios. Of the three people behind this project, only the designer and the artist were available, since their programmer was on a business trip at the time. The team had a lot to say about their work, and it was a refreshing interview with a promising future for the game:
-How did you come with the idea of Crush Crush, making an idle dating sim?
Designer Panda: Making games is all about mixing and matching ideas and mechanics to see if you can come up with something new and interesting. I love both idle games and dating sims, and felt both genres could mash together really well. Also – the thought of making a mainstream dating sim sounded like a fun challenge – there tends to be a bit of a stigma against them.
Artist Panda: I agree with Designer Panda, and would like to add that it was the obvious choice for us since our game and hobby interests related to those genres. It just felt like the right fit the more we talked about it, and then everything else fell into place.
-What do you think makes Crush Crush different from other idle or dating sim games?
D.P.: The quick answer is that the blend of genres helps each individual genre eliminate some of the inherent weaknesses of the other. Dating sims can get really grindy and tedious, and idle games are great at turning waiting into a pleasant experience. Idle games, meanwhile, can often struggle creating a lasting emotional connection with players. Having the “goal” of the game be based around relationships, with characters we hope players will develop attachment to, gives Crush Crush potentially great longevity.
A.P.: On top of what Designer Panda said, I believe our connection to the fans is what also makes Crush Crush really special. The whole shtick revolves around unlocking new girls and we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with the community playing our game, to decide on which characters should be next, their personalities, and other things. Most dating sims come as a bundled done-deal package, whereas our game will continue to evolve and add new content as we develop it with and for the fans.
-The market is currently over-saturated with idle games. What made you think it would stand on its own above all other titles?
D,P.: A few things. A little polish and charm can go a long way to distinguish your game from others – along with whether you feel you’re sincerely adding novelty or value to the market. Crush Crush is our attempt to offer something fun and flirty, and even beyond its genre those qualities tend to be lacking from most mainstream game experiences.
A.P.: We also tried to put a lot of heart into its design; giving it that emotional connection that not many idle games have. The goals in the game can be a bit satirical for the idle genre, but its balanced out with its personality.
-Did you expect such positive reception when you released the game?
D.P.: No. Though it should be said that one should never expect positive feedback – in fact, negative feedback is just as useful, if you can stomach reading it all. ANY feedback means someone cared enough to comment. Think of all the times you’ve loaded up a game, found it underwhelming, and just deleted it. Haters are often one or two improvements away from being fans.
A.P.: I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised when all of a sudden hundreds of comments started flooding in during the game’s first few days. There were no promotional pushes or any marketing created, so all of the responses were purely organic. Needless to say, it was an incredibly humbling experience to see so many people playing, chatting, and leaving feedback about our game!!
-The game has a major strategy and management aspect with the time blocks. How did you come up with that concept and why did you decide to include them?
D.P.: In harmonizing the mechanics and narrative context together, I thought it would be cool if the player had to get better at scheduling their social life in order to improve their standing with their love interests. Basically a lifted-from-life sort of idea. I didn’t want it to get too minutia driven, so the Time Blocks don’t represent actual time in any meaningful way. I just wanted people to have funny moments like, “Oh man! I can’t date Mio until I’m finished surfing… unless I quit my job… Hmm…”
A.P.: It was a pretty interesting way to make time a unit of currency. I haven’t played anything that’s done that before, so it presented lots of neat little ways we could allow the player to have control over their own schedule and strategy.
-Where do you get the inspiration to design the female characters and the game itself? Sometimes it has a less mature-oriented Hunie Pop vibe to it.
D.P.: Artist Panda and I are big anime fans, so we’re familiar with the tropes and character types that are popular to the fandoms we’re building for. But we also wanted to give the game a distinct North American flavour – so for instance Cassie is our “tsundere” character, but she affects more of a Jersey girl vibe. So the recipe has stuff borrowed from familiar anime/manga culture, with our own brand of humour and surprises.
A.P.: I love the girls’ dialogue in Crush Crush; it’s so self-aware and toys around with breaking the fourth wall. The girls have small nods to popular anime tropes, but they are mostly an amalgamation of character designs I am most fond of. Plus, they have some personal details about them that nobody would be able to pick up on. For instance, Mio and Quill are basically personifications of my real life cats (that go by the same names)!
-There seems to be a lot of feedback from the community. How is it to work so closely to the people who play your game?
D.P.: To be blunt – it’s the only way to do it. We even launched the game a bit early (it’s currently in Beta) because we didn’t want to develop any further without feedback from players. Fandoms and communities are literally the lifeblood of these types of products, and we wanted to foster a listen/reply relationship as early as possible. I know some people weren’t happy that the game wasn’t just finished and ready to play, but we wanted feedback on major systems to see if we were hitting the nail on the head. We’re prepared to overhaul stuff to get it right.
A.P.: I also enjoy the back-and-forths with fans, and certain ones really stand out as champions for our vision. They’re the ones who hop on reddit or the forums to answer in our defense why certain mechanics work the way they do, or how they can fix their browser issues etc. I was trying to answer every single comment when the game first launched and had a hard time keeping up with it all. As it turned out though, these champions started appearing and were a huge help in fending off the trolls, answering people’s questions, and genuinely seemed invested in the game we are developing.
-What’s the biggest complaint regarding the community, and how much do you agree with said feedback?
D.P.: The balancing – incidentally the thing I’m responsible for. A lot of players want much less severe wait times to achieve the game’s various milestones, and this is legit feedback. Before I make any major amendments though, we want to get all of the various systems installed, so that players are experiencing the full game as we envision it. Ultimately, when designing games like this, it helps not to be too much of a purist. The final game will be tuned to be a great experience.
A.P.: It’s tough; there will always be someone who complains about something. We just need to take it in strides, honing in on the feedback that really matters to a player’s experience versus the ones who just want a quick easy game where they can burn through content. I think there’s a fine balance of responding to fans’ wishes and staying true to your own vision. Community responses and analytics can help inform certain decisions, however you sometimes need to listen to your gut and not be afraid to keep the features that you believe in, despite complaints.
-What kind of features do you expect to be included in the future? For now more girls and the store are the only obvious ones.
D.P.: Heh heh, well the scope creep is real. We’ve flirted with lots of ideas, and knew we would need discipline in creating our core feature set, because we needed to prove the formula worked first. But Artist Panda and I really enjoy Visual Novels and RPGs, and mechanics from those games could easily make their way into Crush Crush. But we’ll query the audience as we proceed, and probably do closed or open betas with ideas, to see if they gel with everyone’s expectations.
A.P.: Definitely many more fun and interesting characters in the works! Feature-wise, we have a ton of things fans have been asking for that we also wanted to include in our original beta, but didn’t have time for. Now that the response has been so positive, we will continue to update it with cool new features as often as we can!
-Currently the only free way to get diamonds is stepping up the relationship with the girls, and only the first time you reach a new step. Will there be more, if slower ways of getting them?
D.P.: Not at the moment, but that’s more due to an untested monetization structure than anything. Ultimately we want the audience to know that we value their time, and if you’re willing to spend time in Crush Crush, we want you to have a great experience. I could see us having something like “Diamond Achievements” or special gifts for taking part in events – that sort of thing.
A.P.: To add to that; Every now and then I think we’ll throw in some freebies like we did for Valentine’s day.
-What would you consider your game’s biggest selling point when it comes to replay value?
D.P.: Actually we have some, shall we say, “decision-based” gameplay features coming which should increase the replay value significantly. Right now the game has great long term appeal, but we do want to strengthen the player’s emotional investment, and perk their interest in perhaps alternate paths or decisions.
A.P.: Branching dialogue systems (and alternate story paths) are pretty standard in Dating sims, so that is one thing I’d love to see happen. We have other ideas for end-game goals and replayability, but that would give too many spoilers away! Hehe.
–What are your future plans for the game? Do you expect to have it greenlit on Steam in the near or not-so-near future?
D.P.: Once we’re pleased with the balance and monetization, we’ll be launching on Steam next, and mobile after that. We thankfully get to skip the Greenlight process, for reasons we’ll leave mysterious for now.
A.P.: I’m excited to get it on mobile because it’s one of those “check-my-progress-every-hour-then-close” games, which work well on phones. Seriously though, to be on Steam means we could experiment with more, depending on the direction fans want it to go. Something like Hunie Pop is one option, or making something more accessible for all ages — there are so many ways it could go! I’m looking forward to the future for Crush Crush.
It’s hard to have a definite review of a game that’s been released as a beta for so little time, but it’s a promising title that combines the best of two genres and adds a comedy element to the mix. Only time will tell if Crush Crush will become a pillar of the indie community, but what can be said for sure is that the creators are doing their best to make it happen.