October 4, 2022

Remember those maze games that require precision to move a small object you control to the goal? Take that, add the Super Meat Boy sensibilities of “EVERYTHING WILL KILL YOU” and mix in the stress of a room’s walls closing in on you. The end product is a neat little indie game called KRUNCH, a game by LeGrudge & Rugged.

LeGrudge & Rugged was formed in 2009 by Vieko Franetovic (Lou LeGrudge) and Michael Lohaus (Dirk Rugged) in my hometown Calgary, Alberta. While the two both hold degrees in Fine Arts, it was the start of the conversation “if you could build a game, any game: how would it play and look?” that founded the basis for creating their small independent development studio and the first project result is KRUNCH, a self-described “quick-reflex game about escaping, survival and the fear of being closed in”. KRUNCH is a game in which the player controls a tiny round robot that, after being ejected from a glass tube housing, must frantically evacuate the facility holding it captive as the walls close in… all while consistently losing life!

For anyone that knows my tastes, you know that Super Meat Boy was one of my favorite games of 2010 and continues to get sporadic play to this day. KRUNCH scratches the itch for a similar game play style I’ve had for roughly two years. The art style, done by Sara Gross (Two Bit Art), was enough to get me intrigued a couple months back with its very organic retro homage that pops in a way that is very reminiscent of the days you’d gawk at a box or booklet for a video game, fully animated with amazing creature designs to find a graphically limited representation in the game. I say this in the absolute best of ways; there is a certain sensation for me, like the smell of fresh bread cooking at mom’s, that comes from the days when your first impression of a game would be from the artwork on the box or instruction manual and transformed the comparatively simple pixel structures into representations of what is already in your imagination. This isn’t to say the pixel art isn’t well done of course, more-so that with so many indie games trying to re-create a “retro feel” and failing to realize that this means more than “decrease pixel count”, it’s nice to see a game pull it together in a true-feeling homage, for better or worse.

KRUNCH not only duplicates the warm and fuzzy memories of the old-school days but also the frustrating and controller slamming ones. It’s always a little jarring, with how much hand-holding goes on in modern game design, to find a game that kicks you back to the days where a game had an objective and gave you two (if you were lucky) mechanics to reach that objective while throwing way too many obstacles at you to add game length and replay value. This is not necessarily a bad thing and to use my analogy from before will “smell like mom’s bread” to those who enjoy the type of challenge KRUNCH brings. The most glaring issue I can see people struggling with are the controls and I would’ve agreed with them had I wrote this 18 hours before I am now. When you start a game of KRUNCH, the first thought in your head is that the controls will be tight like Super Meat Boy and they just aren’t. For me, this was the biggest hurdle to get over because I had pictured in my head an experience like Super Meat Boy that would require pin-point accuracy when in actuality, KRUNCHfocuses more on pacing and knowing when to boost your speed. If you are able to realize this from the start, little touches such as bouncing back from an obstacle you nudge or momentum of your character no longer become an issue in the game’s control but rather an issue of your abilities to puzzle together how to move and when. What I WILL cry a little bit about, however, is the lack in easy option to use a controller as I believe it would make the game feel a whole lot better to me personally (hell, I can’t even stand playing Meat Boy with a keyboard so maybe it’s just me.)

Although you may not have heard of the two frontmen of LeGrudge & Rugged does not mean there isn’t a fantastic pedigree behind this game:

Sara Gross has an amazing portfolio and beautiful, painterly art style that she applies to her weekly comic Menagerie (http://menageriecomic.com)

Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace) is well regarded for his musical work on as various indie games such as Shoot Many Robots and FEZ, among many others.

Jordan Fehr been involved with the sound design of Donkey Kong Country ReturnsSuper Meat Boy and Hotline Miami.

 

Want to know more about KRUNCH?

We will be speaking with creators Vieko Franetovic and Michael Lohaus in an upcoming special edition of our “Indie Talks!” feature and possibly even offer some small video content offering in the very near future so stay tuned to Pixel Response for more!