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The Crush House is a wacky reality TV simulator with a dark secret

A couple kisses on camera in The Crush House.
Devolver Digital

If you think you have a good handle on the kind of games Devolver Digital publishes by now, you’re in for a surprise. The company’s latest game, The Crush House, is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Created by Nerial, the award-winning studio behind the Reigns series and Card Shark, The Crush House is a first-person reality television simulator in which players are tasked with filming a Big Brother-style show. It’s a game about getting the right shots that’ll please a demanding audience, playing absurd ads to get money, and — just maybe — uncovering a dark truth hiding underneath the TV show.

So how does that all work? To start, players pick four castmates to throw together into the titular Crush House. There’s a diverse cast of characters to choose from that play on reality TV show tropes, like a lecherous playboy that’s sure to bring some sexual tension to the house. Naturally, some personalities will be a good fit with one another, while others will clash. Though, of course, a poor pairing could make for some great drama.

Reality TV stars fight on camera in The Crush House.
Devolver Digital

From there, players spend day after day walking around the house with a camera and filming whatever they like. When they hold the camera up, that shot will be broadcast to the audience. It’s not enough to get random footage, though. Each day, players have to please different audience segments that are tuning in. Some might want to see reality TV drama, encouraging players to film slap fights by the pool. Other viewers have more specific needs. Film snobs will want to see artsy Dutch angles, while “butt guys” want to see … Well, you can guess.

Great shots can fulfill multiple requests at once. In a hand-off presentation at Game Developers Conference, I watched as the cameraman hit multiple tasks at once by voyeuristically shooting an argument through a window — and getting some butts in frame for good measure. That pleased at least three audience members at once, whose support is shown by little emojis that pop up on screen while filming. That success goes towards building better ratings to keep the show on the air, which powers The Crush House’s roguelite setup as players try to complete a season of TV.

High viewer counts are only half the battle. Whenever the camera isn’t rolling, players automatically run ads that bring in cash. They’re completely ridiculous, too; one ad is simply for “Dogmilk” and shows a hot dog in a glass of milk. When I asked what the hell that was, the developers on hand at GDC matter-of-factly told me it was Dogmilk. No further explanation needed. Cash earned from ads can be used to unlock tons of things, from new audience segments to props for the house that bring additional interactions. When the developers install a statue of two people fighting in the house, brawls start to break out in front of it.

A Furby-like toy sits on a table in The Crush House.
Devolver Digital

Those aren’t the only requests to be fulfilled. The cast members will occasionally take players aside to put in some requests of their own. One might ask you to get a shot of them kissing someone during the next day, while a more prude housemate will request that you avoid filming butts for a day. There’s a delicate balancing act there, as players need to please TV executives, audiences, and cast egos all at once.

There’s a potential twist to all of that, though. The one hard rule in the Crush House is that the cameraman isn’t allowed to talk to the cast. During the hands-off demo, that rule was betrayed to fulfill a cast member’s request. That led to an ominous call from the show’s shadowy executives that set the stage for what appears to be a dark mystery that runs through it all. I’m already starting to piece together where that’s going (what’s in that “Crush Juice” everyone’s always drinking?), but that narrative thread should add some large-scale drama to it all.

Whether you love trashy reality TV or not, The Crush House is shaping up to be one of 2024’s must-play indies. At the very least, I have to imagine it’ll be the game with the highest density of butt jokes released this year. That’ll be an accomplishment in its own right.

The Crush House will launch this summer on PC.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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