The Crush House blends reality television simulation with a little something extra

Cute and silly at first, The Crush House hints at more beneath the surface.

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Crush House feels a lot like games like Frog Fractions or Doki Doki Literature Club, at a very surface level. It’s a game that has a frontloaded, simple premise that appears shallow, cute, and almost one-note. But there’s something else happening underneath the surface, something much more complicated and even, possibly, sinister. I played a demo comprising most of the first “season” of the game, and was left scratching my head a little. But that’s because the bigger things happening remain a secret.

The demo I played was about two hours long. During this time I was introduced to the surface-level story, and the core gameplay loop you’ll ostensibly be repeating as you play Crush House. You are the sole camera operator for a new reality show, in which a group of volatile personalities spend a week at the titular Crush House. If you do your job right and the talent produces enough crowd-pleasing drama, the season is considered a hit by the executives and everyone, yourself included, gets to ride the Success Slide!

The cast of weird characters in The Crush House
Source: Devolver Digital

What does the Success Slide mean? Obviously, it’s something besides a fun ride down some elaborate playground equipment. In the meantime though, you have to make it far enough to find out. In order to do that, you have to chase the action, following the Crush House guests and making sure to capture anything juicy that goes down. You also have to run ads to make money, in order to add more stuff to the house. This gives you more options for crowd-pleasing cinematography.

Crowd-pleasing is the biggest point of challenge in Crush House. Each day you’re given a minimum number of demographics you have to please, with an expanding range of standard and bizarre categories. You start with obvious ones like folks who want to see slap fights and cinema dorks who like off-kilter camera angles. But then you start getting more weirdos tuning in who want to see excessive butt shots, long-distance voyeur footage, and even some conspiracy nuts who are convinced something messed up is going down here.

Gameplay in The Crush House
Source: Devolver Digital

The audience will give you little tasks, which can be hard to grok (and may be impossible if you don’t have a certain decoration available). But you can also make them happy simply trying different things with your shots. And making multiple demos happy in one shot causes a sort of frenzy, making the meters fill up faster. It’s hard to picture what this looks like longer-term, but it wasn’t long before it started becoming clear this stuff may just be a means to an end.

As the demo went on, I got to interact with the cast a bit, something expressly forbidden by the producer. You can get tasks from the talent, many of which seem to be contradictory to the aims of reality TV. That’s the first sign that there is more to Crush House than making a sensational content waterfall. As the demo ends, you start to get communications from a mysterious figure, and are invited to visit a location off-set to talk about, well, something bad. Sadly, that’s where the dreaded “thanks for playing” screen kicks in, leaving you waiting to find out the twist when Crush House comes out for real.


Crush House is aiming for a PC release on August 9, 2024. A demo currently available on Steam was played for this preview.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

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