Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platform: 3DS eShop
Release Date: Out Now
Every once in a while, a game pops out of left field that really surprises me. Personally, those are my favorite type of game experiences, sometimes even more so than a great game that you expected (and wanted) to be good from the outset. So when I learned of a new original game called Pushmo (also called Pullblox in Europe) and that it was coming to the eShop, I didn't expect too much; heck, I'd only heard about it for less than a week before it arrived. But when I booted it up and played through the first few levels, I knew right away that this game would be something special.
In Pushmo, you control a sumo-like character named Mallo. The basic premise of the game has you pushing in and pulling out certain arrangements of shapes and blocks in order to create steps for your character to gradually reach the top of each puzzle (or "Pushmo") so you can rescue the child stuck at the top. It's a stunningly simple concept, yet one that's quite clever and has a bit of depth to it at the same time. Later levels introduce a few more elements in the form of manholes that you'll use to warp from one part of the Pushmo to another, and buttons that pull blocks of the same color out all the way.
At the beginning, it starts out with rather elementary concepts, holding your hand just enough until you get a hold of what it is you need to do, but the difficulty builds rather quickly. However, the difficulty curve isn't entirely consistent over the course of the game as you'll often do an easy one-star level followed by a two-star level that is a little more complex and then another two-star level that should have been a three star level (or even a difficult three-star level followed by a simple three-star level). Regardless, each puzzle is genuinely a blast to play, and the bigger and more complex a Pushmo is, the more fun it is to solve.
There's also a level creator that gives you the tools to design your very own Pushmo, and if that's not enough, you can save it as a QR code and share it with your friends or even post it online for others to scan and play through. This is easily one of the coolest aspects of the game, as it ensures near infinite replayability. Just the thought of a downloadable title offering as much content like this is staggering in and of itself, but the level creator is the real deal. Even now, people have created and exchanged hundreds (or even thousands) of Pushmo puzzles in forums online, with some based on classic game sprites, and others representing famous actors, cartoon characters and more.
From the design of the adorable characters to the bright and cheery pastel visuals of the pop-up storybook aesthetic of the surroundings, Pushmo has a very appealing look to it. In addition, the framerate never chokes and holds up extremely well even with the 3D turned all of the way on. Also, it must be said that this game utilizes 3D the best out of all the games I've played on the handheld so far, even topping the likes of Super Mario 3D Land. It doesn't do anything truly amazing with it, but it does give each level a very nice sense of depth that helps you better determine which blocks have been pushed in and which have been pulled out. Even still, you can play it in 2D, but this is one title you definitely want the 3D slider on for, if possible.
When it comes down to it, Pushmo represents the very best of what a digital download game is supposed to be. Not only does it deliver a fresh new IP that introduces a different type of puzzle experience, but it gives you near infinite replayability in the form of it's Pushmo Studio. The ability to create and share puzzles with others while playing new designs that other people have come up with is a pretty incredible addition, even more so than the 200+ ready made puzzles that already await you in Pushmo's main mode. If you have a 3DS and love puzzle games, you should not miss this game; it's an absolute must-own title for any 3DS owner.
+ Original, fresh concept and characters
+ Visuals are extremely solid for a downloadable game
+ Level editor adds tremendous replay value
- If you don't like puzzle games, you won't find much to like
Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10)
Pushmo may be the biggest surprise hit of the year. With over 200+ puzzles and the ability to create and share your own, this a title that no 3DS owner should be without. It's easily the best eShop title to date.