Review by SuperPhillip
Pushmo: For When Push Comes to Shove
While the assault of quality original eShop games is not going to hit the Nintendo 3DS until early next year, that doesn't mean that there aren't any worthwhile titles to look into now. Sure, there is always the Virtual Console to get a blast from the past, but what about those who would rather play something fresh and new? Coming from Intelligent Systems, the developer behind Paper Mario and Advance Wars, is Pushmo, a unique puzzler with a premise of pushing, pulling, and platforming (how's that for alliteration?). Will this new eShop game pull you in, or should you push it aside for a much better download?
You play as Mallo, a sumo wrestler-looking cute character who enters Pushmo Park, a place full of Pushmo, block-based towers that can be pushed and pulled. When a troublesome and shady sneakster hits the reset button on all of the Pushmo, the denizens of the park are imprisoned inside the puzzles. It is Mallo's job with help from the elder who created all of the Pushmo to solve 200+ puzzles and rescue each and every creature jailed in their puzzling prison.
The first eighteen levels are tutorial stages. Some players may want to jump into the game without assistance, but the tutorials ensure that everyone can learn the rules easily. The learning curve is an extremely flat one. The game's rules are simple enough to learn but tough to master as any good puzzle game should be. Pushmo is no exception. Truly it is a masterful title in this regard.
You're introduced to Pushmo with a series of simple puzzles that teach you the ins and outs of the game. There are a handful of rules to follow such as blocks can only be pulled forward three spaces. You can't grab blocks in midair, of course, but you can grab blocks on the side to perform a side pull. This is an invaluable tactic that is necessary to complete puzzles. However, you have to possess enough room to be able to push or pull a block via this maneuver.
The aim of Pushmo is to reach the top of the tower of blocks and rescue the imprisoned character. The character is freed by pulling out the block he or she is stuck in. Then it is a matter of scaling the tower of blocks and reaching the top. This is easier said than done in most situations. Later levels have a plethora of oddly shaped blocks, multiple blocks in complex shapes and even murals of farm animals, dinosaurs, fruit, vegetables, Nintendo staples such as Mario, Balloon Fight, and the Nintendo 3DS itself, and much more. New gadgets are introduced a little less than halfway through the game which changes the flow significantly enough to not make the game feel repetitive. Such things are manholes that transport you from one location to another as long as the manhole is not obstructed by a block. Another gadget is a switch that thrusts forward fully all blocks of the same color as the switch.
Besides pushing and pulling blocks, there is some platforming to be had in Pushmo. You will be leaping across short distances to reach your intended target. Additionally, you can hold the L button down to rewind time. This is perfect for little mistakes that you don't want to hit the reset button over. The reset button shifts the puzzle back to its original untouched form. Rewinding is a godsend as you don't have to redo large chunks of a level just because you made a small yet potentially costly error.
The 200+ Pushmo in the game will have you playing a long time. The exclusion of a "quit game" option between puzzles keeps you playing one more puzzle. Then by the time you know it, you've played for an hour more. If for some reason you get stuck on a certain puzzle, the game will eventually after five minutes or so prompt you with a flashing indicator on the touch screen to pause the game and perhaps skip the level for the time being. This is terrific for players who cannot solve a dastardly trial but want to continue trekking through the title.
Apart from the main game, you can always design your own puzzles and share them with other players via QR codes. The option for an online server to download levels would have sufficed, but Nintendo seems content with the utilization of QR codes. Regardless, it is no big deal. Anyway, you start out with only being able to construct levels that are at the most 16 x 16. Those dimensions double halfway through the main game. You design a puzzle via the stylus, drawing on a grid, coloring in your personalized Pushmo, testing it out, naming it, assigning a difficulty rating to it, and saving it to your collection. You cannot formulate a QR code to share with others without successfully completing it yourself. This I found out the hard way! Poor SuperPushmo needed several alterations before I could submit it as complete. If your creative bug isn't biting, you can always download other players' puzzles by scanning codes into your 3DS. You can store nearly a hundred unique Pushmo, and the creativity is astonishing within the community, especially the Japanese you have had the game for months now.
Pushmo is a great looking game. The 3D is sensational, and it helps to judge depth as the great 3DS games do like Pilotwings Resort and Super Mario 3D Land. The music is quaint, charming, and catchy. You will be humming these tunes, and you won't find them grating even if and when you are stuck on a particular puzzle. Overall the presentation of Pushmo is excellent for seven dollar downloadable software.
Pushmo is what I would consider the first must-have original eShop game. It has tons of longevity via 200+ puzzles to solve and infinite replay value in the form of QR code puzzles both your own and from other players. The gameplay is simple enough for nearly all to understand, and even if the game gets to tricky and challenging, the alternative is there to skip a difficult head-scratcher. For a game that is relatively cheap on the wallet and a joy to play in short or long bursts, Pushmo is pulling for you to pick up and play it.
[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Pushmo (US, 12/08/11)
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