If the Mayan apocalypse was going to involve giant monsters, Crush, Crumble, & Chomp would have been the primer to prepare people for the end — at least from the perspective of the kaiju it would let you play as.
Published by Epyx in 1981 (edit: who were originally known as Automated Simulations, Inc.), the game had six playable monsters in one of the earliest examples of a “big monster” game that later titles such as Bally Midway’s Rampage in the arcades in 1986 would also introduce players to.
Each of the six monsters was based on a popular “movie” monster:
- There was Goshilla, a giant amphibian that left a “corrosive trail of radioactive waste” in its wake.
- The Kraken was a tentacled horror from the deep, now crawling through the cities in its way as it fed its appetite for destruction
- Giant spider, Arachnis, can burrow below ground to pop up wherever in the city it wants to be in, eating everything in sight
- From the sewers comes “the Glob” absorbing everything into itself while leaving a flammable trail of slime behind it
- Or be a giant, flying bug as Mantra, spewing flame below while flying through air filled with the screams of your next meal
- And then there’s Mechismo, the robot terror armed with alien weapons
Players could even “grow their own” if they had the disk version of the game, mixing and matching parts and abilities after picking a base “carcass” that determines their distinctive look. Will you make a sea monster? An insect? A robot? Brontosaur? Or a Serpent?
Each carcass also has its own characteristics making some ideal for certain actions and others…not so much. For example, picking the Sea Monster carcass will give your creature great strength, but the downside is that they’ll have to stay in water. Or, if you don’t want to worry about keeping yourself fed or going berserk from taking too much damage, you can always opt for a Robot body.
Players will then be asked a series of questions to determine the kind of abilities their new body will have. Each carcass is also limited by how many “Crunch Credits” they have to ensure some balance. Having a Robot body might be great and all, but if it can regenerate from damage and wield super strength, fly, paralyze, swim, leave a fiery trail, and be nigh invinicible, the game wouldn’t be much fun. But the sky is literally the limit with this feature. As the manual says, you can “Crunch and Chomp for years…until civilization Crumbles even without the assistance of your favorite monster.”
The game wasn’t an action game in the sense that Rampage was, however. It was more of a tile-based, tactical strategy game where you moved your monster icon about one of four cities — New York, Golden Gate, Washington DC, and Tokyo. You also needed to pick what scenario you wanted to play at from Balanced, in which you scored on everything you did, to Survival in which you earn points for living as long as you can while trying to escape the city.
By picking a monster, city, and a scenario, players could even pretend to relive favorite monster moments from the films. As Mehichismo, or your favorite self-made metal monster, you could decide to ravage Washington DC as the aliens did in War of the Worlds.
The game was primarily driven by the keyboard with a list as long as Godzilla’s tail of key commands you could use to get your chosen monster to do something onscreen. Buildings can be wrecked, people eaten, and famous landmarks smashed replacing them with rubble strewn pixels.
The manual was also filled with plenty of art and writing that many of today’s games simply lack as publishers find ways to cut costs. Each monster had its own “mini biography” in the back listing all of their abilities — and corresponding key commands — including some strategies on how best to be a terrifying tower of deadly monster.
It would later be followed up by a spiritual sequel, The Movie Monster Game, in 1986 which was developed directly by Epyx. It featured much better graphics with isometric cityscapes and improved creature looks. Godzilla was even licensed into the game and you could take him for a spin in any of five cities all of which had instantly recognizable landmarks such as the Kremlin or the Tokyo Radio Tower.
Crush, Crumble & Chomp was also one of those rare games that made it fun to be the “bad guy”, a formula that would later be followed by games such Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper or Triumph Studios’ Overlord. Over the next few years, “big monster” themed games would almost always center around the most popular of them all — Godzilla. EA had also tried to capitalize on mega-monster madness with their Mail Order Monsters in 1986, though it only focused on monster-t0-monster battles instead of trying to wreck the world.
Pickings have been pretty slim, though being such a niche category, it’s probably why no one is too eager to jump back into it. But it would be nice to see another kaiju flavored rampage game out there again.