In it’s current (alpha) form, Crunch Element is one of those games that asks you to sort of, y’know, play along a bit. This explosive shooter from Black Box VR Lab, gives you an open playground and a wonderful box of toys, but it’s kinda up to you to make the most of them.
See Crunch Element has a really simple premise; breach and clear snack-sized levels of enemies, then move onto the next area. But the important bit is all the explosions; you can destroy any wall in the game with a set of charges. Combine that with VR’s tried-and-true climbing mechanics, and you can plan out ultra-slick, Rainbox Six-style shootouts that carry a sense of tactical proficiency. That is if you’re willing to overlook a few things.
The important point to note here is that Crunch Element is currently in Kickstarter, hoping to raise enough money to tackle the exact issues with the game I encountered after spending an enjoyable hour with it. Enemy AI continues to be a sticking point for VR indie development here; guards don’t really know how to respond to loud bangs, finding other dead enemies and, at times, being shot when you’re standing a few feet away from them.
So you don’t need to take advantage of Crunch Element’s appetite for destruction. You could just as easily clear through each level with a rifle in-hand and a sharp set of reactions. But, Black Box rightly asks, where’s the fun in that?
Play along, then, and you’ll find a lot to enjoy. Crunch Element is a game about grabbing an assault rifle with two hands and forgetting about how silly you must look in real-life or blowing a hole in a roof and then unloading a clip into it with unwieldy accuracy. It’s a game to play god in, pretending you’re James Bond without a shred of the expertise. The further you get into the handful of levels already available, the more incrementally complex the design gets, giving you reason to run through the expansive arsenal provided at the start of every mission.
Over the course of the game’s development (it’s first coming to Early Access), I’d love to see bigger levels that encourage a more explosive attitude. There’s also going to be a shop that I’m hoping will let you buy bigger and better weapons to up the scale of destruction.
As it stands, though, this is a welcome if modest start. Crunch Element doesn’t have the answers to some of VR development’s biggest problems, but it’s likable enough to set those issues aside for now and go along with it. And VR gaming should be a bit about that, I think. Don’t tell me you haven’t done a little Star Wars Kid yourself when playing Vader Immortal.
Should it reach its $10,000 Kickstarter goal, Crunch Element is expected to hit Early Access on PC VR headsets in early 2020. Will you be picking the game up? Let us know in the comments below!