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Crashmo (3DS) artwork

Crashmo (3DS) review

"Gimme some mo'"

Freedom is intimidating.

That’s the thought that occurred to many people watching the Nintendo Direct reveal of Crashmo, Intelligent Systems’ follow-up to last year’s Pushmo, one of the 3DS eShop’s defining releases. Pushmo is a very easy game to understand at a glance. You push and pull blocks in and out of a flat background canvas, up to three spaces deep, and then you can use them to climb to the top of the stage. Crashmo has similar gameplay, but with a few very key differences. In Crashmo, puzzles are one block deep right from the start, and they are not attached to anything. This means blocks will fall if support is removed, or if they’re pushed off the sides of whatever object they’re resting on.

These new mechanics lead to more gameplay possibilities and more variety. Crashmo controls almost exactly like its predecessor did. You can grab blocks to move them, and you jump to climb them. The object of the game is still to manipulate a structure made of blocks so that you can build a pathway leading to the goal at the top. Blocks are no longer fixed in place, however, and can be moved in any direction, not just pushed in or pulled out like bureau drawers. Because you can now tackle puzzles from all sides, the camera can now also be adjusted to give players a view of puzzles from behind. The new rules may be a bit tougher for some people to wrap their heads around at first, but once they click, they lead to some truly satisfying puzzle solving.

Crashmo does a great job of differentiating itself from its prequel while never feeling like an unrelated new game with a Pushmo skin. The player character, Mallo, controls basically the same way as always, and the game has a similar atmosphere, but the new rules make it a unique experience while still retaining that Pushmo-ness we all fell in love with a year ago.

Crashmo expects more from the player than Pushmo did, which is apparent right from the start. In addition to being inherently deeper, puzzles also don’t take as long to become challenging. One of the major complaints about Pushmo was that a huge chunk of the game felt like a tutorial. The solution was always simple and immediately apparent, meaning that solving early puzzles sometimes felt like you were simply going through the motions. Crashmo has 20 quick tutorial puzzles, with another 90 training puzzles that are completely optional. If you feel like you’re ready to get into the meat of the game early, you’re free to do so. If you decide to take advantage of the training puzzles, you may be surprised by just how challenging even those can be at times. Training puzzles also allow you to watch the computer solve the puzzle if you get stuck. They exist first and foremost to teach you rules and strategies for dealing with the various new mechanics and gadgets.

Speaking of gadgets, Crashmo introduces a few new ones and tweaks the rest. You’ll eventually encounter various objects that possess special properties, such as floating blocks that are immune to gravity, or arrow switches that will cause the block to move in the corresponding direction when you stand on it (along with any blocks that are standing in its way).

These various gadgets and mechanics work together to create some truly devious puzzles. You may spend ages attempting to solve a single puzzle, only to find that the solution is simple enough that it can be reached in a few seconds when approached in the right manner. I personally spent upwards of 30 minutes on one late game puzzle, sliding and stacking blocks, before finally realizing that it could be solved in a single move. Still, those were 30 minutes well spent and Crashmo’s cute, charming graphics and relaxing, catchy music help stave off frustration. Even when you’re not making any progress, it’s a pleasant game to just play.

Crashmo packs in a ton of content to keep you engaged. On top of the 100 “story” puzzles and 90 training puzzles, there are 40 unlockable special challenge puzzles for those gamers who are clever enough to finish the main game. The level creation tool with QR code level sharing feature also returns. It brings a new tool that allows you to download QR codes from the 3DS web browser and load their puzzles from there, with no scanning required. In fact, Papa Blox will send you puzzles that way through SpotPass every now and then. One of the more interesting extras is a set of ten “prototype” levels. Prototype levels use blocks that are more than one space deep, meaning their puzzles are even tougher than the standard type. Some of these prototype levels are basically 3D models of things like buildings and pianos, and they’re extra tough. It seems like these puzzles could be the basis of a third -mo game, possibly called “Stressmo.”

With its simple-yet-versatile mechanics, Crashmo is a natural evolution of, and a worthy follow up to Pushmo. Puzzle design ranges from smart to downright devious, leading to many self-esteem-boosting moments when you’ll stop to think about how clever the level designers are for coming up with them, and how clever you are for solving them. Or maybe you’ll just get stumped a lot and feel like an idiot. Your mileage may vary, as the tired saying goes. One thing’s certain, in any case: If you enjoyed Pushmo but are intimidated by Crashmo, you won’t be doing yourself any favours by avoiding it.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (November 27, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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