words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by LeGrudge & Rugged for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2012.
In Krunch, you take on the role of one of six Krons, which are flying mechanical orbs, each with one huge eyeball and a mouth. The game begins with the six Krons hovering in separate tubes with a pair of tentacled creatures sitting in the foreground. An alarm sounds, and the Krons are flushed out into some kind of giant facility filled with traps. Walls close in and enemies give chase, and you dash ever forward, avoiding spikes, spinning saw blades, and other instruments of pain across 100 levels.

Things start out simply enough, as you find yourself emerging from a tube, with the basic movement controls displayed above you. Nearby, another Kron moves away, attempting to make his escape. You are able to move freely in any direction, but you don’t have long to get your bearings, as a wall begins to slide in from the left side of the screen, and it will crush you if you don’t get going.

Another exciting development is introduced in this first level as well… In addition to the giant wall of crushing death, your health is slowly draining away. Stand still for too long, and you’ll die regardless. Touch any of the nearby saw blades, and a bit of health is removed as well, and you are bounced away a short distance. All you need to do here – and in the levels that follow – is to make your way to the pipe that marks the level’s exit. The Kron’s health is fully restored at each level transition.

In the second room, you are introduced to a boost mechanic that allows you to send yourself in any direction at a higher speed, which can come in handy when you’re attempting to avoid the game’s many crushing walls and time-based traps. However, this speed boost comes at a price, as it steadily drains your health as you use it. Your health meter is divided into four sections, and it drains steadily over time and as you take damage. Drain the meter into its final quadrant, and you will lose the ability to boost as well. When your health meter is almost entirely depleted, the screen will flash, urging you to move forward before you self destruct.

You retain a bit of inertia as you move, which makes it difficult to boost around corners, particularly if dangerous obstacles are present. Since you are bounced away when you touch most objects, players must be very careful when moving quickly through tight corridors. Slamming yourself back and forth between saw blades or spikes is a quick way to get yourself killed, and it’s even more dangerous in later levels when insta-death orbs and lasers are introduced.

New dangers are introduced through each of the four themed areas. Levels are designed to be completed in just a few seconds, and it’s entirely possible to complete the entire game in a single sitting. If you manage to find yourself stuck in an unwinnable scenario, you may use the self-destruct button to send yourself back to the start of the level (this feature was not included in the game’s original release).

Individuals wishing to test their skills against other players are urged to complete levels as quickly as possible, collecting glowing Krebs along the way. These collectibles are spread throughout every level, and occasionally point the player in the correct direction, although they are more often placed along more difficult paths to encourage competitive players to seek them out. Ultimately, Krebs are only used for scoring purposes and placement on the online leaderboards.

Most obstacles simply take away a bit of your energy and bounce you back, while electricity and lasers will kill you instantly. However, there are a couple of other interesting objects that change up the gameplay over the course of the experience. For one, the player occasionally encounters blocks that must be pushed out of the way. These are primarily in place to slow you down and add to the tension, as draining health and crushing walls constantly loom over the player.

One obstacle comes in the form of smaller walls. In addition to large screen-filling walls that move up behind you, many levels feature smaller walls that open and close with a specific timing, potentially killing you if you get caught as they snap shut, or at least delaying your progress as you float nearby waiting for them to open. Many of these walls are simply traps that engage and disengage along a corridor, but some add more complexity to the level design by opening and closing entire sections of the level as you attempt to negotiate a obstacles quickly before your path is closed off. Some levels also feature large walls that come in from other directions, changing the landscape as you move forward, and making your path ever narrower.

There are occasional enemies as well, although they are more meddlesome than dangerous. Some enemies will simply swarm on your position, forcing you to move quickly or avoid them altogether. Ghost-like enemies also appear in many levels and they are in place to simply slow your progress. Touch one of these ghosts and it will stop in place – blocking your path – as it reaches out to grab you, forcing you to wait a few seconds before it continues on its patrol route. For the most part, these simple enemies are in place as additional obstacles to be avoided.

Fire spouts cause constant damage when you’re caught in their blast, and they can kill you very quickly if you’re not careful. However, you can sustain some fire damage and still survive. You’ll catch fire and burn for a few seconds, which will drain your health more quickly, but the flame is extinguished on its own. This means that you can purposely sacrifice some health in order to dash through an environment more quickly or avoid another hazard. Like lasers, fire spouts engage and disengage with a specific timing, so you need to pay attention to move safely through.

Of the more challenging objects that you must contend with are teleporters. In most games, teleporters simply move you from one area to another, and it’s generally very clear where you’ll end up. Here, however, the player has no way of knowing where the teleporter will send him, and many levels built around teleporters are somewhat maze-like. With the potential threat of a crushing wall moving up from behind, teleporting backward for a brief moment increases the apparent danger as the player rushes toward another teleporter to move forward once again.

On one hand, this increases the tension, but on the other, these teleportations are often disorientating. There is no graphical indication of where a teleporter has taken the player character, and since Krons have the same color scheme as the environment they occupy, it’s not always apparent where the player has ended up. Fortunately, the short levels mean that there is a low penalty for restarting an area, but the design does run counter to the constant movement and avoidance of obstacles present in the game’s other challenges.

The game also features several boss encounters that make the escape mechanic more organic. In each of these three encounters, the player is simply tasked with doing what he has always done… namely escape the environment as quickly as possible. However, bosses don’t just slowly move up behind you; rather they dash forward a bit at a time, sometimes crushing pieces of the environment in their attempt to reach you. Combined with walls that may permanently close off certain paths and narrower passages filled with dangerous obstacles, these encounters quickly descend into mad dashes for the safety of the finish line. In addition, some boss encounters occur over the course of several levels, and these challenges tend to be longer than other levels, forcing the player to consider reserving his boost ability for specific time-based challenges within the level, rather than boosting nonstop.

Krunch was developed by LeGrudge & Rugged, based in Calgary, Alberta. The studio was founded in 2009 by Vieko Franetovic (a.k.a. Lou LeGrudge) and Michael Lohaus (a.k.a. Dirk Rugged). Vikeo is credited with design and programming, while Michael is credited with graphics and music, and they shared level design responsibilities. Additional music was provided by Rich Vreeland (a.k.a. Disasterpeace), who has also composed music for FEZ, Bit.Trip Runner 2, The Floor is Jelly, Shoot Many Robots, High Strangeness, Hyper Light Drifter, and the film It Follows. Sound design was provided by Jordan Fehr, who also created sound effects for Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, Snapshot, Shank 2, Hotline Miami, and Incredipede.

Krunch got its start as a prototype during Mini Ludum Dare 21 in 2010, which had “Greatest Fear” as its theme. This theme inspired the design of constantly draining energy, walls closing in, and claustrophobic environments. The initial prototype was completed over the course of a couple of days with 15 levels, which were eventually expanded into a full game released two years later.