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Pushmo (3DS) artwork

Pushmo (3DS) review

"With a seemingly effortless efficiency, the developers of Pushmo have created a puzzler which presents a delicate blend of difficulty and fun, while maintaining variety; things rarely get stale in this downloadable treat."

I tend to approach puzzle games with a healthy dose of skepticism. Most of the time they are unenthusiastic romps of familiarity and banality, often repeating the gameplay concepts introduced with little to no variation. Pushmo, I'm elated to say, changes all that.

With a seemingly effortless efficiency, the developers of Pushmo have created a puzzler which presents a delicate blend of difficulty and fun, while maintaining variety; things rarely get stale in this downloadable treat.

The premise is simple: in front of you sits a mass of multicolored blocks which need to be pulled, pushed, and slid in differing ways to allow your puff ball of a character (Mallo) to ascend to the top and nab the goal (the goal being other puffballs, which the game tells you are children stuck in the blocks). Completing the puzzles can often times be a breeze, sometimes four of five consecutive puzzles being completed in the blink of an eye.
Then, as quickly as they came, the developers will toss a curve ball at you, introducing a new puzzle which requires genuine outside-the-box thinking. It's not uncommon that you find yourself retracing your steps and exploring an area of the puzzle that might appear inconsequential. These moments of curiosity can lead to revelations or breakthroughs. It's at exactly those moments that Pushmo shines the most. The mental reward of realizing the error of your ways and subsequently conquering particularly crafty stages is always reason enough to continue on and see what else the game has to offer.

Just as you may think you have the core mechanics conquered and understood, a whole new dimension is opened in the form of manholes. Manholes allow Mallo to jump in on one side of the mound of blocks, and come out in a more useful area. It’s not as simple as it sounds, though. Many times the blocks that you skip when going through a manhole must first be arranged in a perfect order to actually complete the puzzle. This dynamic is a brilliant way of forcing players to think in ways they never thought possible upon the initial sizing-up of the stage.

If the mental part of the equation was all the game had to offer, it would still be a delightful offering in and of itself--but the platforming prowess required is icing on the cake. A multitude of tricky jumps are sometimes the only thing forcing you to skip a stage to try again later, and a majority of the time it doesn’t even click that you can make certain jumps until it simply hits you in the face. The satisfaction of besting a crafty puzzle in Pushmo has to rank high among some of the greatest puzzlers of all time.

For the ambitious folks out there, Pushmo even offers a create-a-puzzle feature which works well, especially in the way it allows you to share your creations. The system creates a QR code, which is basically a barcode that another 3DS can scan with its built in cameras. With a system as simple as that, I can see Pushmo having a long lifespan and a cult following on the internet. The possibilities truly are endless.

It would be easy to nitpick about the game’s simplistic graphics and conservative use of the 3D effects, but it would only serve to take attention away from the bulk of the game, and that is its dastardly puzzles, impeccable pacing and near-perfect execution therein. Regardless of your allegiances to genres, Pushmo is a must have. And at a measly $6.99, there really is no excuse not to have it.

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Community review by Linkamoto (April 01, 2012)

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