If you told me two weeks ago that I'd fall in love with a pudgy man in a sumo diaper,… I'd ask you to cut back the drugs… turns out though, you'd be right, and that pudgy bastard would be my drug. Pushmo is a game by Intelligent Systems, the same folks who gave us some Fire Emblem, Wario Ware, and Paper Mario games. The most notable being the Paper Mario series as the style is kinda reminiscent in this title. Bottom line before I dive in to the specifics, if you like puzzles, then buy this. It's absolutely what I would call a must buy. Everyone is saying that and it's completely true.
Here's the gist of the game. You move a short dude around on a stage which has a tall wall of blocks. You pull these blocks in and out of the wall like you would a drawer and this creates a ladder of sorts for you to climb and make your way to the top in order to rescue a little baby. Sometimes the block you can push will be 1x1 while sometimes it'll be a big collection of blocks or shapes. Figuring out how to navigate the wall so that you don't need to move a block you're standing on is a key feature here, as is the fact you can only pull blocks and groups of blocks out by three lengths. This limits things and makes even the seemingly simple solution be a bit, trickier than you'd expect.
From the logo to the puzzles to the help menu even, the presentation is clean. It's colorful. The menus are easy to navigate and read. You can use buttons or touch. There are confirming sounds when you've selected stuff and icons bounce. It's all very easy to understand and read and really, it's something we all take for granted in games. We will complain when they're bad, but when it's good, it gets overlooked. This game though, is one of the cleanest experiences for a downloadable game I've come across. The story is not very important in this game and it simply is a means to set up a 'reason' for doing what you're doing. It's not essential or anything but I suppose it's kinda nice to feel like I'm working towards a greater whole on the behalf of another individual instead of simply beating levels like in Tetris Plus or something.
Even though it is a puzzle game, the graphics do matter in many respects. You have to be able to clearly understand what you're trying to solve and you don't want to stare at something fugly for hours on end. Luckily that's not a problem here as the game looks great. The colors are very nice and the walls of blocks are very easy to understand and differentiate from each other for the sake of the solving. The 3D was a curious one as I wasn't sure what to expect. Turns out that the game uses it really well and there's no real ghosting like can be seen in other games like Ocarina of Time 3D or Pilotwings 3DS. In fact, I found that the 3D is quite beneficial. I will find myself turning it off to save battery power but sometimes I find that I'm not navigating efficiently enough and I pop the 3D on. Then it's very apparent how far out some blocks are and makes it easier to understand what you're looking at. While I still play with the 3D off at times, this game is meant to be played with it on and having it on benefits the player.
Things get much much harder after these tutorial levels...
The puzzles are the meat and potatoes of this game absolutely. While the ease of the puzzles persists for a little too long for my tastes, it also ramps up in difficulty quickly and in some respects gets very hard very quickly. Still, I found my way through the entire main campaign within a week of diligent play. The first 80-90 puzzles are pretty easy but they're still fun, and even if you understand the new mechanics just by looking at them as they are introduced, it's helpful to use them still. The game contains "worlds" of sorts, 11 of them in the main game to be exact. Each of these 'worlds' contains 18 puzzles in them. So do the math… that's just shy of 200 puzzles. Pretty damn good value for my $6.99 I'd say. As you would expect with a puzzle game, there are more puzzles to unlock. I've only made it through most of the first set and well, they are really challenging. Only one or two were stumpers for multiple play-times but they're enjoyable like the rest. In the main campaign you'll come across categories like Basic Lessons, Level 1 Challenges, Murals, and more. The Lessons and Challenges are geometric shapes designed to teach you techniques through the art of doing while also just providing a standard challenge. Murals are infinitely more entertaining as they are pictures of things, sprites if you will. So the first mural puzzle I came across was that of an apple. Later there was a pencil and a wedding ring for instance. At one point in the game, you'll come across some actual Nintendo sprites in your puzzles which is some great fan-service that can only be appreciated by a true Nintendo fan. I'll leave it as a surprise on just how many Nintendo Murals are in the game.
You will be spending a lot of time with this game, solving puzzle after puzzle and well, things could be very frustrating with a game like this… but luckily Intelligent Systems was pretty smart in ensuring the best possible experience with a few gameplay touches. For one, the levels are NOT timed. On the one hand, I don't miss that because well, this isn't a game where how fast you can solve it is really much of an achievement. Each level is so unique and challenging that the pure act of solving it is a great achievement and feeling. The other hand is that, you will spend a lot of time, and I mean, A LOT of time on some of these later levels (4 and 5 star difficulties in particular). A count-up clock would be one thing, but a count-down clock would be absolutely annoying! It would add extra pressure where none is needed and so the absence of any clocks is greatly appreciated. Also, you might find yourself working on a puzzle for a while, making a path that ends up destroying your original path up and thus, if you fall you'd be screwed… well, they guard against that with two unique features. They're so simple but without them, this game would be hurting. The first is a simple Arrow Button at the anterior part of the stage. If you jump on it, then all the blocks move back into the wall. A fresh start without having to do it yourself, or exiting out of the level. It's the equivalent of a good shake of an Etch-a-Sketch. Even if it were a menu item reset, this would still be too cumbersome and so having a button you jump on doesn't have you fumbling for that awkward 3DS Start Button ever. Sometimes it's even fun watching that chubby bastard do a high dive from the top of a level down to the button when in need. Now say you accidentally made that jump and now couldn't make your way back up? That'd be a bummer and a half to essentially lose your progress for a simple slip of the slide pad. Well no worries there as by holding the L-trigger, you simply can rewind yourself for about a minute's worth of gameplay. This is incredibly useful if you either fall as I said before, or if you make a series of moves that end up working against you and it's either a pain or impossible to reset to a better part you created. If you take all of these great gameplay touches and throw in the pretty useful Zoom-Camera system (R-trigger), then you're pretty much covered. The game takes care of the player.
Two examples of some delightful homemade works.
Well, almost takes care of the player. I'm a known audiophile when it comes to gaming music and well, this is the one area of the game I was disappointed in. Besides the menu music and the level music, there is really nothing else. There is no variety in any of the puzzle's music and there's no option for it. It's the same cheery tune. Luckily it's a good one so I definitely don't find myself annoyed by it when I hear it. But as usual, I wish there was more effort here. Even Dr. Mario had multiple songs in its soundtrack and you will absolutely find yourself playing these levels longer than any Dr. Mario level. I found myself playing this game often while watching Netflix or other media and so I'd usually turn the volume down anyway so it's not that big of a deal. It's just a bit disappointing is all and really that's the reason I'm not giving this game a flat out 10.
As a final awesome mode, this game comes with a complete level creator. As you progress through the main game you will have full access to all the ladders, blocks, and Triangle Buttons your heart could desire. The designer works very much like the Pattern Designer found in Animal Crossing or Mario Kart DS. You simply draw with the stylus what you want to and bam, there it'll be as a functional level. What's pretty badass about this game is that if you make a level, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll know how to beat it right away. It's the first game I can think of where I've ever been able to do that. I however am not that much of an artist in terms of drawing sprites and such… so luckily they covered that masterfully. Once you solve a puzzle you've made you can create a QR code for it, which is one of those weird black and white squares that Android devices use. It's like a barcode for your level and you can share it anywhere. Print it off via a computer or send it to your buddy's email, or post it on Negative World even! Now you notice I had said that this is useful for people who aren't artists, and that's true. Since the game released in Japan in October and has already been out here for a nice handful of days, there are hundreds of great sprite recreations of classic characters or things from past games. I even saw a GoNintendo Rawmeatcowboy level. So whether you are a Picasso of the stylus pen, or simply a connoisseur of fine puzzle craftsmanship, everyone can find a means to enjoy this bonus mode. A final note, that while in past games the color palettes were pretty locked, meaning you'd end up having a cool image but one color would be wickedly off and the end result would be kinda undesirable. Well, here you still are limited to 10 colors per level, but you can swap any of those onto your unique palette from hundreds of colors. There's a lot of option here and it's refreshing to not be limited. You can save 90 puzzles (whether yours or others) in the mode which isn't too shabby. It'll take a while to fill up.
For making it this far through the review, enjoy a special Negative World puzzle I made for you all!
So in a nutshell, BUY BUY BUY this game. It's incredible and has some intense replay value. After beating level after level, you'll be able to go back to a previous level and find it giving you at least a similar challenge as it's literally impossible to remember how each puzzle is solved. There's too many, which is a great thing. So let me know how much you agree or disagree. Besides the lacking soundtrack, this game does pretty much everything right. I'm incredibly pleased and to think I felt it was a gamble when I was deciding to buy it with such little knowledge. I became an old pro very quick. Happy pushing!
I was watching a video for this earlier today and it does look a little bit like Catherine in terms of gameplay. Looks like a lot of fun too. I might buy this once I'm done with all my Christmas shopping.
This is definitely an awesome download. Intelligent Systems (Advance Wars!!!) nails it again. I need to play more of the main puzzles though, I can't even download a lot of the QR code puzzles since I haven't unlocked some thing or other yet.
PS. You should link to the sharing thread in your review.