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Pushmo

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Pushmo

Pushmo

Image © Nintendo
Pushmo for the Nintendo 3DS simultaneously addresses three major beefs that have dogged Nintendo and its games in recent years: a lack of original ideas, a lack of original characters, and Nintendo's hesitation to put the same weight and effort into digital games that it puts into the games it sells at retail. Indeed, Pushmo is one of the most fun and original puzzle games to exist on any gaming platform, and if you own a 3DS, there's no question that it needs to find a home in your library.

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle/Platforming
ESRB Rating: E
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
Price: $6.99 USD

THE BASICS: This Park is Totally Square

Pushmo stars a tiny sumo wrestler who resembles a marshmallow. His name is, appropriately, Mallo. Mallo is called on to help out when the sliding puzzle attractions in an amusement park begin entrapping children. These sliding puzzles are called "Pushmo," and make up the core concept behind the game.

You guide Mallo as he pushes and pulls at the Pushmo to free the children that are trapped near the top of every puzzle. But revealing the kid is only part of the puzzle: Mallo must also find a way to climb up and actually rescue the frightened tot.

The rescue effort essentially involves fixing the Pushmo blocks in a way that lets Mallo leap up to the top of each attraction. This takes a little platforming skill, and a lot of brainpower, as each Pushmo block can be pulled out up to three times, essentially letting Mallo create a crude set of stairs and platforms for him to climb. However, Mallo needs sufficient room to pull out blocks. It's easy enough to pull out a bottom block three times, but when you get way up on high, you'll quickly find that Mallo typically doesn't have sufficient footing to pull out a block more than once, which often isn't enough to give the little sumo the traction he needs. Much of Pushmo's challenge lies in finding alternate ways to pull out blocks, like coming at them from the side, or manipulating surrounding blocks to allow for better positioning.

Pushmo has some additional features that make for more complex puzzles later in the game, like ladder/warp pipe combinations that send you to different positions on a puzzle. Finally, once you think you've conquered everything Pushmo has to offer, you and your pals can roll up your sleeves and torment one another with Pushmo puzzles of your own creation.

THE GOOD

It's very unique -- Most puzzle games expand on a formula that's already been done--say, Tetris, or brain-teasers, or word puzzles, or the Match-3 genre. But Pushmo is wholly its own thing. It offers a new kind of puzzle experience, and more importantly, that experience is thoroughly fun to play through.

You can make your own Pushmo puzzles and share them with friends -- One of Pushmo's most unique (and devious) selling points is the option to assemble your own Pushmo puzzles and share them with friends via QR codes (hundreds of these QR codes have already been published on the Internet--see if you can find some). Be warned, though: each home made Pushmo puzzle is required to have a solution, but the puzzle's engineer is not required to make that solution easy to work out!

The graphics look good, and have retro charm -- The blocky puzzles in Pushmo are colorful and interesting, as is the unique world they inhabit. In fact, the block-by-block setup for each puzzle is a perfect canvas for pixel art, and you may see some puzzles that take on the familiar shape of old friends.

Lots of variety in the puzzles -- Some of the puzzles in Pushmo are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to solve, while others look simple, but will drive you mad as you look for a solution. You never know what you're walking into until you sit down and start solving.

If you get stuck, you can skip the level -- If you're absolutely stumped on a particular puzzle, you can move on to the next (with a few exceptions). Definitely a pleasing option, but what happens to the kids who are left behind? Ideally, you're supposed to go back later and rescue any stragglers, lest your conscience prick at you forever.

THE BAD

3D viewing isn't required to play the game, but it does make things easier at times -- There is some uncertainty over whether or not 3D images can harm young kids' eyesight, so some parents choose to disable the Nintendo 3DS's 3D display. While Pushmo is certainly playable in 2D, the 3D "pop" makes it easier to make complicated jumps up complex puzzles.

CONCLUSION: A Day at the Park

Pushmo has been called the Nintendo 3DS's first downloadable killer app, and that praise is well-deserved. Mallo's puzzle adventure is cute, complex, and will keep you occupied for ages. Who knew an amusement park could maliciously ensnare so many kids, though?
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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