The 3DS downloadable exclusive that other consoles wish they had.
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: Dcember 8th, 2011
Score: 4.7 / 5
Amidst the large-scale releases of Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo managed to produce and release a smaller, downloadable puzzle game called Pushmo. The concept and presentation are about as simple as it gets, but as Nintendo fans know well by now, good things can come in simple packages. Pushmo has proven to be a highly addictive and entertaining puzzler, and one with lots of room for expansion.
In this game, you play as the young Mallo, who is guided by the elder Papa Blox. While out enjoying a day in Pushmo Park, a park full of Pushmo puzzles, a hooligan sets out trapping children inside puzzles, and Mallo needs to rescue them all. Not much to it, but puzzle games don’t need much motivation.
A Pushmo puzzle consists of a large, usually rectangular wall that is divided into many irregularly-shaped blocks. By walking up to an individual block, you can pull it out up to three spaces, so long as you don’t push yourself off your landing by doing so. The goal here is to form a staircase of sorts to get yourself to the top of the puzzle, where the young child is usually waiting.
The concept seems rather simple, but later levels can get deviously challenging. You’ll be pushing and pulling blocks out from above, underneath, or to the side of you in order to get to where you need to go; later still, items like ladders and pipes will let you warp around the level to and from various points. Still, the challenge feels worth it, as when you finally complete a difficult level, you feel like the most awesome person in the world. Additionally, if a level proves to be too hard, you’ll eventually be given the option to skip it and move on, in a display of standard Nintendo mercy.
Solving puzzles rarely becomes a straightforward affair after the first few levels, and one of Pushmo‘s greatest strengths is its ability to make a puzzle that seems simple at first glance, but ends up being highly challenging. The variety of puzzles that can be made using such simple rules is surprising, and keeps the game from getting stale. Nintendo also makes solving puzzles less frustrating on the control side, letting you rewind the last few seconds in case of a bad jump, or letting you quickly reset the puzzle to its default form. Some of the puzzles can be discouraging at first, though, when you look at your Pushmo pattern and just have no idea how to proceed.
The game itself comes with somewhere on the order of 200 puzzles to play through, which can take you about a few minutes each, usually. On top of the pre-made puzzles, you’re also given the Pushmo Studio, where you can create your own puzzles to play and share. Creating puzzles is a very easy and straightforward affair, as you’re basically just drawing blocks onto a blank canvas. Once your puzzle is finished, you can turn it into a QR Code, which can be posted in image form on the Internet, as seen below. Any codes you come across can be very quickly scanned with the 3DS Camera and turned into puzzles, which is all done within the game itself. You can’t share puzzles with Spotpass, though, which seems like an odd omission given how much Nintendo is trying to promote this feature. One thing I noticed is that the game easily lets you create impossible puzzles with no solution, but no puzzle can be shared until you beat it yourself, and thus prove that it can be solved; I found that to be a very clever and simple way of ensuring puzzle quality.
Pushmo ended up being one of the most interesting and enjoyable puzzle games I’ve played this year, and for only $6.99 it’s definitely worth the price. With how easy it is to create and receive new puzzles, the replay value of this game is only going to improve as time goes by. If Nintendo can continue to push great downloadable content like this, the 3DS eShop could really be a force to contend with, when added together with great Virtual Console titles. If you’re looking for a cheap, fun distraction that you can play a few minutes at a time, this is the game you’re looking for.