Title: Pushmo

Platform: 3DS


Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Review By: Eric Stuckart

Rating: ★★★★½

The Nintendo 3DS really didn’t have that great of a launch, did it? With its poor offerings in terms of launch titles, the lack of an online store for the first couple months, among other problems, for a while there, gamers were starting to think that the Big N’s luck has finally run out. Fortunately, these fears are finally starting to appear as unfounded. Despite being slow on the uptake, Nintendo took some opportunities to make amends with their consumer base by cutting the price of the system, giving early adopters a bunch of free games on the eStore, and most importantly, finally releasing some games worth playing.

With that, we have Pushmo, a puzzle game that hits all the sweet spots that any mobile puzzle game should strive for, and it does it with ease. Not only is it the first great title to hit the Nintendo 3DS’ eShop, it’s a great 3DS title in its own right.

Pushmo’s core concept is deceptively simple. Mallo is new to the Pushmo Park, a place full of constructs made up of blocks called Pushmo. Initially, these walls look somewhat like puzzles, with intricate pieces all fitting together to form some sort of shape. The player has to figure out in what order these blocks must be pulled out from the background in order to traverse the Pushmo to the top, to save children who have been trapped somewhere in the configurations. However, like any great puzzler, the concept is creatively refined and reimagined as the game progresses in a way that opens up the possibilities for the levels. This opens the door for a steady difficulty curve that really hits hard later on during the game’s 250-plus levels.

New features and gameplay elements are introduced later on such as buttons that will extend blocks of the corresponding color out the maximum three spaces, a feature that forces the player to be smart about the path he takes, as well as if he should be leaving a return path behind him. Even further down the line, ladders are introduced that can teleport Mallo across the level, giving players a whole new element to look out for while trying to solve the puzzles.

While the sheer amount of levels found in the game can be daunting, solving them and waiting to see what the next level looks like grows to be an addictive experience in and of itself. Fortunately, like most Nintendo-published games today, the increasing difficulty is tempered with the option to skip ahead to the next level should the current one be too much, and towards the latter half of the game, there are a number or puzzles that left me stumped for the better part of a half hour. Most of the time, the solutions end up being painfully obvious but so easily missed that they never give the player the feeling that the levels are unsolvable.

Aside from the main game, there is also a very user-friendly Level Creator, whose only limitation is that of the player’s imagination. Upon creating levels, players can create a QR code that they can share with others using the 3DS’ camera. Fear not, though; Pushmo has a failsafe that will not allow a player to create QR codes unless he has been able to beat his own level, so players shouldn’t have to worry about a steady influx of unbeatable levels trolling the community. There really isn’t much else to say about it. It works, and works well. Also, there’s been a pretty large community of gamers creating some really impressive levels, all easily acquired without much trouble. I created a level myself to give readers a taste of how simple it works. Try it out!

As far as downloadable titles go, Pushmo is an instant classic, and the very type of ‘killer app’ that Nintendo needs to make second nature for the eShop if they’re really serious about fighting the competition in the mobile gaming market. It’s bright, colorful and fun, and its relaxing presentation makes even the most taxing levels seem that much more easily digestible. Also, while I’m one of those guys that can only handle the 3D for so long without having to give my eyes a rest, Pushmo is the first game that I felt really showcased how well the 3DS can integrate the aspect into its gameplay. On the bright side, the game looks just as good without it turned on, so it never feels like anything is being sacrificed or lost due to it not being on.

Unfortunately, there are two small aspects that prevented this game from receiving a perfect score. For starters, the background music becomes very repetitive and obnoxious after playing the game for awhile. This is further hammered home by the fact that there are only a handful of songs throughout the game, which endlessly play ad nauseum throughout sets of levels. What’s initially relaxing and soothing eventually becomes grating from the sheer lack of variety.

The other, bigger gripe that I had with Pushmo was the way in which it holds the player’s hand whenever it introduces any new gameplay elements, or whenever the player encounters something that he hasn’t done before. The first set of levels is an exercise in patience, as Papa Blox, the in-game creator of the Pushmo structures, practically stops the action for just about every little thing, and I mean everything. While I’m all for games that teach the player how to play as the game unfolds, Pushmo’s method was long and drawn out, and without being able to be skipped or sped up, it annoyed me to the point that I started to grow tired of its shtick before I realized how good of a game this really is. Fortunately, both of those problems are easily overlooked.

A couple minor complaints aside, Pushmo is an excellent downloadable game, and another great game from Nintendo. It’s the kind of puzzle game that is cute, playful and engrossing, without dumbing down the concept or difficulty to match its look. Hands down, Pushmo is the first must-play title that has graced the fledgling eShop, and yet another great example Nintendo taking advantage of the innovative features of their hardware and pushing them to create a fun, addictive title.

For more info, pushmo.nintendo.com

Pads & Panels received a download code for the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.