If you’re looking for a new game to make you throw your controller to the ground in frustration, á la Super Meat Boy and classic Mega Man games, be sure to keep an eye out for KRUNCH. A game of reflex and concentration, KRUNCH (yes, the capital letters are a must) has been designed by Vieko Franetovic and Michael Lohaus under the studio name of LeGrudge and Rugged. It’s a self-described “frantic race to freedom” in which players must pilot little droids through increasingly hazardous labyrinths to bring them to safety.
With a dark pixel art aesthetic drawn from concept art by Sara Gross, the game focuses on the ideas of claustrophobia and desire to escape. Levels keep the pressure on with massive monsters and intimidating traps and hazards, keeping a constant sense of being closed-in on. This feeling is supplemented with a moody, industrial-sounding chiptune soundtrack, courtesy of Lohaus and Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace) of Fez fame.
KRUNCH was conceived as a prototype over a weekend at the Mini Ludum Dare 21 competition in September 2010, which had a theme of “Greatest Fear.” Franetovic and Lohaus created the flash game Klaustrum, and looking at it a little over two years later, it’s easy to see how they expanded from that concept (“a game about the fear of having no escape and being closed in”). In developing KRUNCH, ”from the very beginning, we were after recreating the rush, the claustrophobic sense of desperation, like the walls are closing in,” the studio claims on their information page. They’ve managed to handily achieve this rush, setting a very dark and ambient tone behind a crushing sense of panic (oftentimes due to a threat of actually being crushed).
“can you get to the exit?”
The game looks set to be a compelling entry in the recent revival of “Nintendo Hard” games that aim to bring back a sense of intense challenge similar to that from popular games on retro consoles. Video game players who came into their own in the 80s and early 90s are familiar with games that offered little or no guidance on how to play the game when compared to many modern titles (and when it was provided it was usually intuitive and not in-your-face), which are viewed by many to be overly guiding or “hand-holding.” KRUNCH and games like it are throwbacks to that era of game design, and aim to restore the sense of tension and reward that those games provided.
Those looking to pre-order the game, which releases this month, have a few options: for $7.99, buyers get a digital copy of the game, DRM-free; $9.99 gets a digital copy of the game with the soundtrack; and for $29.99, buyers get a collector’s edition that comes with a physical copy of the game, a soundtrack CD, a comic book, a signed and numbered art print, a poster of all of the boss maps, stickers and wallpapers for your computer.
For pre-orders, art and more, head on over to the KRUNCH homepage.