Originally published for the TurboGrafx-16 console in 1990, Devil's Crush is now available for download from the Wii's Virtual Console shop for a mere 600 points ($6). That's a bargain, considering that there aren't many pinball video games that are as much fun to play as Devil's Crush. The physics aren't quite as believable as they were in its predecessor, Alien Crush, but the expanded table offers much more to do, and the flashier presentation goes even further toward helping you forgive those odd bounces the ball occasionally takes.
Much like in its predecessor Alien Crush, the music in Devil's Crush has a similarly eerie mood, but the aliens and slime have been exchanged for a motif featuring sorcerers, demons, and pagan symbols. The table in Alien Crush was two screens high; this one is three screens high. Each section has a set of flippers, multiple bumpers that typically resemble skulls, and various monster-shaped mouths that lead to different bonus stages. As in any pinball game, the basic strategy involves using the flippers to keep the ball zipping through the lanes without falling into the drain at the bottom of the table.
There's only the one table, but it is wonderfully intricate. Hitting skulls and triangles on the right and left sides of the screen will increase your bonus multiplier and unleash scurrying ghouls that you can whack for extra points. Bashing the castle or skull-shaped bumpers at the bottom of the table will conjure skeletal pieces that will block the drain and outlet lanes. The various monster heads on the sides of the screen gradually lose flesh as you hit them, while shooting the ball into one of the mouths will usually take you to one of six different single-screen bonus stages, where you can earn loads of points by destroying knights and dragons with the ball. You can also use the tilt button to nudge the ball, which, as experience reveals, is an effective way of jolting the ball away from outlanes.
Apart from the extra screen, the main improvement that Devil's Crush provides over Alien Crush is that there are significantly more things to hit, and more animations to see as a result. Between all of the little monsters parading around the table and the various faces going through their ghastly transformations, there's always something catching your attention. Each section of the table also features its own unique display of satanic imagery. The upper screen depicts druids circling around a symbol. A good portion of the middle screen is occupied by a woman's head that gradually transforms into a snake. Lastly, the bottom section of the table features a dragon, a skeletal alien head, and two serpents that spit out "spider skull things" whenever you hit them with the ball. Sure, the 16-bit graphics and solid colors look stale by today's standards, but the game's overall aesthetic is as much pleasing as it is surreal.
While the ball generally behaves like it's supposed to, it does feel lighter than it should, and it will occasionally ricochet off a wall at an unbelievable angle. Unless you're dead serious about your pinball, though, you'll come to terms with the ball's unique quirks real quick. The intricate table, the flashy visuals, and the surreal setting make it very easy to overlook a few goofy caroms.
For the most part, the Wii emulates the game beautifully. The graphics are clean, the music is clear, and the action doesn't stall or stutter. The controls are intuitive too. You hold the Wii Remote sideways and press left on the directional pad to activate the left flipper, press the 2-button on the far right to activate the right flipper, and press any of the other buttons to tilt the table. Eagle-eyed fans of the original TurboGrafx-16 release will notice that Hudson changed many of the five-pointed star symbols on the table into triangles, perhaps to avoid any controversy over depicting religious symbols in an "E"-rated video game. Considering that the table is packed with strange symbols and ugly monsters, that one graphical edit really doesn't soften the game's macabre atmosphere all that much.
You can't go wrong with Devil's Crush. The game's exciting portrayal of pinball and spooky atmosphere will keep you coming back for more--and, at just 600 Wii points, the price is right.