Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pushmo Review

I'm not usually one for puzzle games but the positive word of mouth around Pushmo led me to purchase it before going away for the weekend. It turns out 6.99 buys you a lot of game these days and isn't indicative of the quality. For what it's worth, Pushmo may be just a plain better game than most 3DS retail releases.
Not that the story really matters here but Nintendo has cooked up a short little tale to give you an excuse to solve puzzles. Some small cartoon kids have gotten themselves stuck in Pushmo's; block puzzles that can be compacted. It's your job to help rescue all the kids as Malo, a rotund sumo wrestler-esque protagonist. Any avid puzzle game aficionado probably knows that the meat of a puzzle game usually doesn't revolve around the story and with Pushmo, the paper-thin precursor to the gameplay is cute addition but easily forgotten in a few minutes.

Gameplay is very accessible and easy to understand  You move Malo with the analog stick and only use two face buttons, jump and grab. You must expand the three dimensional blocks from their 2D shape by dragging them towards the screen and then climb the structure to reach the distraught child. There is a mild amount of platforming involved but the real challenge comes with figuring out in what order you must pull out or push in the variously shaped block pieces to reach the top and save the kid.

Puzzles start out very simple in order to teach you the various methods and concepts that you can apply to solve the puzzle but gradually grow into very complex 20-plus block moves that really require you to use your brain. Yet, the challenge never becomes frustrating like it can in some other puzzle games. Braid, for instance, had me pulling my hair out and taking breaks until I could make myself think like Jonathan Blow. Pushmo sidesteps this standard puzzle game complaint by allowing you to bypass puzzles and go back to them at any time. That feature wouldn't alleviate frustration alone; there's just something about the whimsical nature of the game in combination with the very passive mechanic of moving blocks that doesn't make me want to shut the 3DS when I can't immediately solve the puzzle. The game is also very aware that it's a mobile game. Puzzles typically do not take you more than a minute or two to solve, allowing you to whip out your 3DS and do a couple puzzles when you have five minutes to spare. It's certainly a better way to spend your time than reading your Facebook news feed.

Graphics are simplistic but colorful with good use of 3D. Pushmo is one of the few 3DS games that I prefer to leave the 3D turned up all the way. I really believe, in this case, the 3D gives you a subtle, better understanding of the shapes and how you can or should manipulate them to succeed. On average, I solved puzzles faster with the 3D on than off. Functionally, this shouldn't make much sense but this seemed to be the case for myself. Music is bright, airy and works with the graphic's aesthetic  Luckily, neither the sound effects or music get old over the course of  the game.

In addition to providing over 250 puzzles for you to solve, the game also allows you to create your own Pushmo puzzles and share them with your friends via QR codes. In theory, there's infinite puzzles to play, which for 6.99, is a heck of a bargain.

What else is there to say. If you like Picross, you will like this. If you are looking for a mobile game that's actually meant to be mobile, Pushmo is the game for you. Honestly, the game is just a joy to play and may be he best time I've spent with the console outside of Street Fighter IV. This may not only be the best E-Shop only puzzle game but perhaps the best E-shop game period. Pick it up without reservation.


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