Scientists, ever watchful of the stars and aware of the potential for life on other worlds, detect the presence of an unidentified body entering our solar system. Their celebrations are stopped short by the detachment of a craft which proceeds to Earth and, after some examination of our planet, promptly destroys San Francisco. The world needs a hero; the secret services have a vehicle in the form of a prototype space fighter and you're chosen to pilot it and do some damage to the alien menace.
As a promising start, the introduction is almost a work of art featuring some excellent graphics setting out a very Independence Day-esque plot-line with a series of "windows" overlaying each other over most of the screen and a scrolling message as narration to unfold the events at the bottom. From there we head to the titles page which, it has to be said, is more than a little reminiscent of the Turrican series and is accompanied by the Katakis titles track by Chris Huelsbeck. In fact, Crush's developer, AEG of Smash Designs, seems to have a slight Manfred Trenz fetish lately; his about to be released Turrican 3 borrows more than a little from Trenz's "mythology" and Crush is very reminiscent of Katakis, the shoot-em-up stages from Turrican 2 and indeed the excellent Enforcer. But this certainly wouldn't make Crush a bad game; in fact this pedigree should make it an excellent game if done right, Trenz's games are, with good reason, near legendary in C64 circles.
And certainly the in-game graphical feel of Crush is similar to Katakis and the game certainly doesn't suffer for that; detailed and varied backgrounds scroll smoothly past with a myriad of sprites of various sizes moving over them for your ship to kick several shades out of. There's a good selection of weapon systems too, including a "force" unit and a chargeable beam that give more nods to Katakis and the game it was based on, the legend that is Irem's R-Type.
But, sadly, Crush doesn't quite manage to become more than the sum of it's parts; there are a few problems that let it down and the most annoying has to be the collision detection; saying it can be a bit over-zealous is like saying the Pope is just a tad Catholic and the kind of manoeuvre that could be achieved on most other shoot-em-ups just isn't possible without reducing your shiny blue ship to it's component molecules. With a little practice it can be bettered but the game is also very occasionally prone to U.D.S. (Unfair Death Syndrome) where you don't actually touch the landscape or a nasty and are still blown to smithereens which is, needless to say, incredibly frustrating!
All of which is a shame really, because Crush is certainly a very reasonable addition to anybody's game collection and is worth a look for the presentation alone, but it doesn't quite manage to set the world on fire simply because the difficulty curve is too steep. Armalyte and Enforcer still remain as the be-all and end-all of C64 horizontal scrolling shoot-em-ups for now but this is certainly something I'll go back to.