On the surface, Crazy Construction sounds like the epitome of shovelware; a generic puzzle game that slaps together tired ideas and a dash of zany alliteration to garner enough sales to crank out the next one. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll discover a cleverly designed arcade-style title that boasts a fun, distinctly Japanese flair. Inspired by the everlasting Tetris, stacking lots and lots of stuff is the name of the game, but a surprising amount of a free-form precision — along with dependable physics — change up the rules. Crazy Construction is a one-trick pony, but it's a really cool trick.
Of course, you can’t expect to wander into a void without context as to why, precisely, you’re stacking lots and lots of stuff. A group of pals known as the Builders are determined to construct the craziest of monuments that will stretch to the heavens and represent their dreams, but the villainous Crash Construction Company is viciously, unrelentingly, pointlessly determined to knock that tower back down. It’s a silly story and simple to its core, but a goodhearted spirit makes it a welcome addition. Either way, your attention will be focused squarely on the moment-to-moment action.
SCE Japan’s Trash Panic is probably the best frame of reference for Crazy Construction; both games have you rotating random objects as they float to the ground, shoving them together in tightly packed formations for best results. But instead of breaking down garbage before the trashcan overflows, you’ll be trying to stack piles of secondhand goods as high as you can without letting too many discarded oddities plummet to the earth far below. Gaps in the floor are more than happy to swallow up your mistakes, contributing to a Nuisance Meter that can grind your fun to a halt with one chain reaction of a disaster. Meanwhile, storm clouds and other dangers lurk ominously on the top screen, threatening to knock your carefully guided objects out of the sky should you guide them recklessly. Tricky as they are, all of these hazards distract from the true enemy: gravity.
Playing Crazy Construction is, quite literally, a balancing act. Trial and error will quickly teach you that bricks make excellent foundations while traffic cones really don’t, along with the repercussions of failing to plug holes with larger objects before it’s too late. Shape and size matters, too; for example, round objects like soccer balls or lollipops have a tendency to roll off into the abyss, forcing you to snap together makeshift barricades and avoid excessive slopes. A single wobbly tower may seem like a genius idea at first, but the whole thing could come crashing down with an ill-placed motorcycle. Stacking high enough to reach the required height isn’t a great challenge, but keeping the Nuisance Meter happy takes a good deal of skill.
While an everyday direction pad is effective enough, the 3DS circle pad offers a brand new range of precision that compliments impressive clipping, ensuring that even the most weirdly shaped doodad plays fair. Watching your magnificent mountain support itself against all odds or, alternatively, come crashing down in a devastating landslide taps into elation and frustration alike, especially when restarting the entire chapter rides on your success. The physics-based action sometimes feels like it's luck of the draw, but it rarely takes more than a couple of attempts to get it right.
There are ten chapters to Crazy Construction, each with four stages and a boss. Objects become increasingly outlandish as you go, eventually working up to castle ramparts, Daruma dolls, and outlandish items that we won't spoil. Boss encounters are lively affairs, pitting you against patently insane members of Crash Construction as they pelt you with special attacks like reversed controls and increased falling speed. You’ll run into slightly varied level design and new forces of evil roaming the sky along the way, but the basics stay the same from start to finish, bordering on monotonous near the end. All the same, picking up the game again is always tempting, especially considering how very likeable it is.
Bright colours and enthusiastic music greet you from the very beginning, backed by a chorus of animated voices shouting out the game’s title in shaky English. Characters are drawn with exaggerated deformity, juxtaposed with the oddly realistic objects raining from above in a most delightful manner — even if the art dips into sloppy territory now and then. Chilling out and tuning into a podcast might suit this kind of experience, but an energetic soundtrack of jazzy tunes quickly presents a counteroffer, putting together a collection of tracks worth listening to on their own. The whole package has the strained feeling of a tight budget, but a tight budget used well.
Crazy Construction does what it sets out to do and little else, sticking to an inventive plan that works. With a relatively low investment of time and money, this absurd puzzle game is worth seeking out if an unconventional puzzle fix is what you’re after. Keeping you entertained for more than an hour at a time is another matter, but the quality of each minute may be higher than you expect. Besides, someone has to build that tower of dreams in the name of justice, even if it is constructed with half-eaten chocolate bars and nondescript action figures.