By Scott MacDonald / May 12th, 2015
|Developer||Intelligent Systems/Nintendo SPD|
|Release Date||June 19, 2014|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
I stumbled across Pushmo World during an eShop sale a few months back. I’ve always been a fan of puzzle games (Tetris, Lumines, Meteos, to name a few), so I downloaded the game without a second thought. It may seem mundane, but you’d be surprised at how much fun you can have moving blocks.
Players control a sumo wrestler cat (I believe he’s a cat?) named Mallo. Pushmo World is full of the eponymous Pushmo; puzzles composed of blocks that are pushed and pulled. Mallo’s goal is to manipulate the blocks in such a fashion that he can reach the top of the puzzle.
Located at the top of each puzzle is a poor child who is trapped inside the Pushmo. Don’t ask me how these children managed to scale the Pushmo and get stuck in there, but I’d hazard a guess that a distinct lack of parental supervision is at fault. The entire situation is pretty irresponsible, if you ask me. Later puzzles even place these poor children near the center of the puzzles, meaning you have to work your way inward.
Each Pushmo is built a maximum of three columns deep, so every block in each Pushmo can be pushed or pulled out a maximum of three times. You can pull and push blocks from the front, and also from the sides. You can’t manipulate a block you’re standing on, though, presumably because Mallo is so delightfully chubby.
Pushmo World features several different areas to explore. Pushmo Park is the bulk of the game’s content. Here you’ll find the game’s 250 puzzles and 250 trapped children. There’s also a Training Area with examples of the basics and each new gadget in the game, Mysterious Pushmo for unique types of Pushmo, a Pushmo Studio for crafting your own Pushmo and the World Pushmo Fair, where you can tackle other users’ creations and upload your own.
Pushmo World sounds deceptively easy. The goal is to always reach the top, but, after the first 20 or so puzzles, it’s never readily apparent how you’ll achieve that. Later levels also introduce several gadgets. Mallo can travel between Manholes of the same color to reach different areas of a Pushmo, and In/Out switches cause an entire color of Pushmo to extend or retract when pressed. In addition to his pulling and pushing abilities, Mallo can also jump a height of one block vertically and horizontally. Each puzzle has a reset switch at the bottom, and you can also rewind time if you make a mistake.
You can also choose to skip a Pushmo without penalty if it’s stumped you. From my experience with the game, you can skip up to ten puzzles, but it might be more. Then again, if you need to skip that many, you might consider revisiting the Training Area for a refresher. If you manage to rescue all ten children from their respective Pushmo, you’ll be treated with a special scene where they jump around all cute-like, and you get a Miiverse stamp. Of course, if you don’t beat them all, that means some poor little child is still trapped in there, but you wouldn’t do that, right? I mean, what kind of monster are you?
Mysterious Pushmo includes Pushmo that are designed to stretch your thinking muscles. In this section, Pushmo of the same color are connected. For some Pushmo, all blocks of the same color react to each push and pull, but, in others, some do the opposite in a Yin-Yang effect. Some Pushmo also have timed blocks, meaning that not only do you have to figure out how to scale the Pushmo, you’ll have to do it before the blocks forcibly retract.
Pushmo Studio is where you’ll go to create your own Pushmo. I’m not one for creating my own content, but the interface is clean and simple, with tutorials to help you craft your puzzle. I created a basic Pushmo in a few minutes using the GamePad.
At the time of this writing, there were around 100 user-created Pushmo in the World Pushmo Fair. Most puzzles were uploaded a few days ago, so there’s still plenty of user activity. I don’t envision anyone running out of puzzles before they’ve had their fill.
Pushmo World’s soundtrack can best be described as a spring concert at a park with some chip tune beats thrown in. Birds chirp in the background while an upbeat tune with heavy bassoon and violin play along. It’s entirely delightful and perfectly fits the soft, cartoony visuals. There are a few nice touches, too; I’m especially pleased by the way Mallo shakes his little arms when he jumps and the ridiculous squishy sound he makes when he touches the ground. Audio and visual are arguably unimportant in puzzle games, but in Pushmo World, they complement the experience without obstructing it.
Some Pushmo are also shaped like famous Nintendo characters. Expect to scale the likes of Bowser, Goomba, Bullet Bill and many more during the course of the game. An orchestrated version of several Super Mario Bros. songs play for these levels, and it’s an absolute blast to hear. I repeated a few of these levels simply to listen to the music. The mix of chip tune with flute, bassoon, piano and trumpet is pure joy. I’d download it were it readily available.
If I’ve any complaints, it’s that I want more. I’d like to see a few more block types to help mix up the action. I also struggled to find a good camera angle for the larger Pushmo. You can zoom out to get a better look at the Pushmo, but you can’t keep the camera zoomed out while you play. More control over the camera would aid in planning a Pushmo ascent. Pushmo World only supports the GamePad, as well, which is totally unnecessary if you aren’t using the Studio. The Pro Controller would be more comfortable here.
A hint system would be a nice feature, as well. The first 20 or so levels have it, but after that, you’re on your own. I appreciate that you can skip levels and keep going, and there’s enough content here that you’re unlikely to feel overly frustrated; however, a hint system for all the puzzles would be useful for younger gamers.
Some might balk at the game’s simple mechanics, but this is truly a case of ‘less is more.’ There are no time limits, no deaths, no ways to fail aside from not completing the puzzle. It’s literally you against the puzzle. In a way, this is puzzling at its purest, and I frequently found myself in a zen-like state while playing the game.
For the purposes of this review, I’ve beaten all 50 training stages, 30 Mysterious Pushmo, and around 150 of the Pushmo in Pushmo Park. I’ve also beaten around 30 or so user-created Pushmo. I’ve spent around 12 or so hours pushing and pulling blocks.
Pushmo World is an excellent puzzle game that revels in its unexpectedly difficult simplicity. It takes a simple mechanic, primarily the manipulation of blocks and uses it to thoroughly stump you. For pure puzzling pleasure, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better puzzler to sate your puzzle hunger.
Review copy provided by the author
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