Review by Virulent
Only Satan himself could design something this addictive...
Once upon a time, there was a crazy crew of Japanese programmers known as Naxat Soft. Their mission? To create the finest console pinball experience possible, going above and beyond what is possible on normal tabletops. To call Naxat's "Crush/Crash" series (depending on whether you're Japanese or American) a simulation of pinball wouldn't entirely be accurate, as these games bring the boards alive with animated creatures and bonuses, multipliers and bumpers with a mind of their own. While Naxat's first foray into the realm of fantasy pinball came in the form of Alien Crush, a two-screen board infested with Giger-esque extraterrestrials as well as a smattering of bonus games, perhaps their finest hour is this game which you are reading the review for now. Devil's Crush essentially takes the best parts of Alien Crush, hones them to a razor-sharp edge, and introduces loads of new secrets, bonus stages, and graphical/aural improvements. It also swaps out the Ridley Scott inspiration for something a little more Stephen King. You'll face numerous walking skeletons, bloody grinning skulls, occult worshippers, and even a beautiful female face that slowly morphs into a demonic lizard-creature with each bonus you score. The result? One of the most addictive console games ever created, a challenging game of skill and reflex that will bring you back to its flippers time and time again for another go...or two, or three, or four, et cetera.
Being that this is a pinball game, Devil's Crush doesn't really need a story persay. Besides the numerous movie-licensed tables in the back of your arcade, when was the last time you played on a real pinball machine with a plot? Unlike its predecessor, however, this "Crush/Crash" title DOES have an ultimate goal; to score 999,999,999,000 points in order to destroy the demonic forces at work on the table. This goal may seem at first glance ludicrous to obtain, but the game includes a password feature to save your score so you don't have to complete the game on the first runthrough.
This game is perhaps one of the best-looking HuCard ever released for the PCE/TG16, bested only by Super CD games and Street Fighter II Dash. I remember my jaw dropped when I first started a new game at how awesome the table before me looked. Numerous sprites adorn the board with plenty of animation frames (and zero slowdown), crisp backgrounds abound, and ridiculously huge and detailed bumpers and centerpieces really make the game come alive. There's so much going on at times that it can be somewhat confusing as to where your ball is, which doesn't necessarily happen often as the screen follows it wherever it travels between the 3 screens of playing field. All of this is enhanced by the splendid bonus stages you encounter, which look gorgeous as well. The fact that this was one of the only games in my library which retained its graphical splendor on my TurboExpress back in the day should speak volumes of the visuals here.
The musical score, from the theme of the main board to the eerie bonus stage pieces, is excellent and sets the tone of the game with its gothic-metal feel. Sound effects are top notch for the PCE/Turbo, with convincing pinball machine sounds mixed with grunts and groans of demons you thwap, as well as a wicked digitized laugh whenever you lose a ball. The only criticism here is that unlike Alien Crush, you only get one theme for the main board rather than a choice between two at the beginning of the game. The number of BGMs are also woefully inadequate for a game which you will be playing this much. I recommend you pop on your favorite Type O Negative album to set the tone when the music starts to grate on your nerves. ^_^
Now here we get to what makes this game an essential for anyone who owns a PC-Engine-based machine. This is one of those titles that you sit down to play at noon on a Sunday with nothing to do and end up tearing yourself away at midnight to try and sleep. Pinball games are all about scoring points, and this game gives you literally hundreds of ways to do so. Whether you're aiming to break the coffins near your bumpers at the bottom of the first screen to increase your multiplier count, shooting for one of the numerous cubby-holes in the board to score big or get into one of the 6 lucrative (and difficult) extra stages, or working your ball up to the top screen to take down the raving occultists for accumulating bonuses, you'll never end up playing this table the same way twice. The game also has a multitude of secrets just waiting to be discovered within its demonic denizens. Find a way to change the color of your ball from silver to blue, then red to finally orange and you'll get increasing point values for whatever you score. Discovering the hidden secrets of the rotating octagram at the top of the table, or the color-changing blobs just below it, will net you hidden points and even an extra ball if you're especially skilled. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and you'll begin to feel as if you've really sold your soul to the Devil as this cart keeps you captive for hours on end. My only gripe is the lack of a multiball challenge, which is admittedly minor.
Overall, Devil's Crush is one of the most enjoyable, addictive PCE/Turbo games around, and quite possibly the best video game pinball title ever made. You owe it to yourself to buy this game if you own a PCE/Turbo, and if not then it's at least worth a look via emulation. Whether or not you have any interest in pinball makes no difference. I remember the first time I rented this game, I rather was not a fan of pinball in the least. Then I played Devil's Crush...then I played it again...and again...etc. Almost a decade and a half later, I still play the hell out of this game, pun intended.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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