Remember Skylanders? You know, those toys that you’ll find bagged up on charity shop shelves sometimes? I don’t blame you if you don’t, the fad has all but ended, with only Amiibo staggering along. But Crumbling, a VR game available on Meta Quest and Steam VR, is everything you could want from toys-to-life.
Admittedly, I was initially puzzled why on earth you’d need VR for a third-person roguelike. But five minutes later I had a grin so wide it would have put the Joker to shame. And it’s all thanks to Crumbling’s tiny, tiny toys.
Crumbling’s basic roguelike elements – kill monsters, upgrade your skills, clear level after level – are fun enough. But what elevates the game is the way it’s presented. It takes place in a toy shop, abandoned by its owners. It’s the setting of a mystery you uncover with the aid of your adorable little ‘Crumbling’ toy.
But instead of traipsing around a dungeon, you’re yanking a figure out of a pack and waving it around one of several dioramas, slashing away at enemies or just plain smashing your figure into your foes. It’s the kind of thing you’d do with your Amiibos if you weren’t afraid of breaking them.
Granted, it does take a bit of getting used to at first. Once – okay, twice – I was shaking my fist, frustrated that the controls weren’t working. Then I realised that this time I’d picked up my Crumbling with my left hand. So, this time around, it was my left Quest controller that let me deal damage.
Likewise, I found myself trying to dodge bullets when they came flying towards my face. It doesn’t matter if Crumbling’s flying cow monsters squirt you with their teats – a real thing that actually happens. As long as you lift your figure out of the line of fire, you’re good. But it’s your figure that your foes are going for, so you need to be on your toes.
There are upgrades aplenty, but what really gave me a rush was unlocking another page for the comic, or pouring magic onto one of Crumbling’s shelf displays, giving it a dash more life. The story’s fun, although I found myself sympathising somewhat with the supposed bad guy Why? Because his competitors were literally using magic to get an edge. Sorry, Mr Wonka, I’m going straight to Slugworth’s.
Crumbling rarely fails to capitalise on the interactivity of VR. Outside the cutesy level scenery, you’ve got the run of the small shop, which you negotiate by dragging yourself around. And getting upgrades involves yanking open the till, choosing your upgrade, then giving the till lever a good yank. There’s even an old-school buzz-wire game in at least one of the dioramas – and let’s not forget that ripping open the packet of your Crumbling never gets old.
Throw in additional unlockable Crumblings (and the promise of more), and you’ve got a game that’s wonderful wall-to-wall whimsy. Crumbling is best enjoyed in bites – you’re not going to spend an entire day pottering around the toy shop – but it’ll leave you with a smile every time. If you’ve got so much as a single action figure, Skylander or Amibo sitting on your shelf, Crumbling is for you.