Pushmo was the first original eShop game that caught my attention. Pyramids and Freakyforms did not interest me at the time(Though I plan on reviewing them later), so when Pushmo was released, I immediately bought it. It was my first impulse purchase, and it was one I have not regretted at all.
The story of Pushmo begins when you, a round sumo-like character named Mallo, visit a place called Pushmo Park. You meet with the inventor, Papa Blox, who shows you how Pushmo works. Pushmo, according to the game’s eShop page, “are incredible puzzle-like climbing toys” in which you can push and pull individual blocks, forming a path to the top. Suddenly, a young punk has trapped several kids in different Pushmos across the park, and it’s up to Mallo to rescue all the children who are trapped. What’s interesting about the story is that in the main game, there are 180 Pushmos, each with a kid trapped inside. That means this single punk took 180 separate kids in the park and trapped them in gigantic convoluted structures. In any other world, he would have been arrested for kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a minor, but in Pushmo Park, he is left to roam free and continue to wreck havoc on the lives of little children.
In all seriousness, the story does give you context on why you should solve every puzzle in this family-friendly adventure. The visual aesthetics also support this family-friendly nature. The world is colorful and vibrant and the character designs are simple and EXTREMELY cute to look at. The 3D also works well, with the illusion of depth achieved when you push and pull sections of the Pushmo forward. The world of Pushmo is not only a world that is full of positivity and life, but it also looks great as well.
The music and sounds also show off a very bright and happy environment, with sets of levels getting their own theme music. You have tutorials, regular levels, murals, and Nintendo-themed murals to get you through the game. However, there are no other stage themes. You’ll hear the same song repeat in each level in a single set, which is slightly disappointing since the tracks are very good. However, the appeal disappeared right when I reached the last set of stages.
The game play is where Pushmo shines. The goal is to rescue children trapped in the Pushmo, and since they are usually stuck at the top, you have to scale the gigantic puzzle until you reach the goal. When you get past the beginning stages, you are introduced to two new elements that complicate the puzzles: The manhole and the pullout switch. The manhole lets you enter and exit from one manhole to the other as long as they are exposed and of the same color while the pullout switch lets you push all blocks of a same color out when you step on it. It’s important to know when and where to use manholes and switches, especially the switches as you don’t need to hit every switch. If you’re overzealous in pushing and pulling blocks and activating switches, you’re likely to block your path. This is especially true near the end. You can also rewind time by holding the L button, so you can go back and fix your mistakes. Finally, by holding R, you can see the entire Pushmo from afar so you can plan your next step, or if you just want a full view of the Pushmo.
The mechanics are simple but refined. Forming a path to reach the goal is easy to do, and the game builds from that by steadily increasing the complexity of the puzzles as you play. When the manhole and switch are introduced, you have to think a few steps ahead, mainly to see if using a switch or manhole will move you forward or completely trap you. However, you only get into this mindset near the endgame, as the beginning puzzles and some of the midgame puzzles are very easy. It feels like once you begin the endgame, it suddenly spikes in difficulty without warning. I’m assuming that since I’m an adult, I’m able to see things two to three steps ahead. If you’re a child, you might perceive this increased slope in difficulty more easily. For me, I went from breezing through the game to spending twenty minutes solving one part of the puzzle so I can move onto the next part. The difficulty never reached the point where I stopped playing out of frustration. Being able to solve a hard puzzle definitely yields a sense of pride and I felt much more eager continuing to play. The game is rewarding. Though there is a sudden spike in difficulty near the end, it just made want to beat the puzzles even more.
In terms of replayability, the only levels I wanted to replay were the mural levels. The tutorials were just tutorials, and the regular levels felt more like expanded tutorials in the beginning, but the murals were entertaining at least. It was interesting and satisfying to see what shape each Pushmo was as well as climbing on top of a giant lemon soda, or alternatively, Mario.
There are also user-created Pushmos, which are incredible. It’s amazing to see how creative some people are in making levels. I tried a couple out and they were just as difficult as the end-game Pushmos and extremely fun like the mural levels. In order to receive user-created Pushmo, you go to the Pushmo Studio in the main menu, click on an empty square in the stage selection, and press the “READ QR CODE” button. You position your 3DS so that the QR code is within the frame on the top screen, and if done correctly, the game will recognize the QR code and download the new Pushmo for you to save and play.
As for making Pushmos, I never got the hang of it, but then again, I’m not very good at creating my own levels in any game/level maker. For those creative and determined enough, the level creator will certainly occupy a lot of your time, as well as playing some of the user-created Pushmos. I definitely recommend keeping an eye on the internet for some great levels.
All in all, I have to say that Pushmo is definitely worth the $6.99 that it is worth and more. There are some minor issues with the music, but that is just nitpicking on what is deservedly a fantastic game, and one that I would definitely call an eShop classic. The gameplay is solid, there are plenty of entertaining puzzles and the user-created Pushmos and level creator will ensure plenty of game time depending on your level of creativity with the level maker and patience with the end-game puzzles. This is one game that everyone with a 3DS has to download.