My New Addiction – Pushmo

Pushmo
Pushmo is quite a bit like Atlus’ Catherine, sans the sex and guilt. That was my immediate reaction to Nintendo’s recent digital release, and I stand by it as both amusing and helpful in framing the idea that we’re going to talk about moving blocks around here.

To set the stage, a Pushmo is a large block or shape, composed of a smaller series of blocks, varying in shape but connected by color. Many Pushmo give the appearance of a failed game of Tetris, while others form more complex shapes such as animals.

Wasn’t that helpful? No? Don’t worry, we’ll try to make some sense of this together.

The game places players in the sumo mawashi of Mallo, a rather round and plushy looking character that forewarns players that this entire experience is going to prove incredibly cute with its bouncy cast and soft color palette.

Mallo can pull any of these smaller block shapes outward, or push them back inward, creating platforms to climb to the top of the Pushmo in order to save children that have been trapped inside the flattened form of it. The playing field is permanently fixed, so Mallo can only pull a block back three spaces. As a result, climbing up to the next level will only allow the next block to be pulled back two spaces before Mallo hits the edge and must mind his footing. The work-around is that Mallo can use a sideways pull, so long as he is not standing on a part of the block being pulled in that direction.

Would you believe that this pretty well summarizes the experience?

It’s mostly true.

These simple boundaries encase the best damn digital release from Nintendo on the eShop – perhaps the word “ever” is apt, but who can remember what came out in those dark years before Pushmo?

Like Catherine, the premise is simple, but the possibilities offer continually complex moments – those lovely moments where you find yourself utterly stumped and forced to walk away for a coffee or shower only to – wait for it – have that sudden realization blossom in your mind like an exploding star and rush back to the 3DS to verify your sudden stroke of brilliance.

Pushmo is infectious in that way, the best possible way for a digital title on a portable system.

But there’s a bit more that keeps me coming back to Pushmo on the daily – namely Mallo’s jump ability. Our happy little Sumo man can jump from blocks, introducing a loose mechanic that finds fun in sometimes allowing you to believe that you can fake out the challenge by cheating.

There are many times where pulling out every block in a logical fashion gives way to looking for some shortcut that will allow you to save your back with a few clever jumps. And that tiny little idea opens puzzles up to two approaches, and several combinations.

Because Pushmo is the kind of game where you want to devour all the puzzles like the terrible puzzle beast you know yourself to be, the game also has a studio where you can create your own.

Making crazy combinations of colored blocks is easy enough, the trick of course is trying to layer color and design to finish with a Pushmo as beautiful to look at as it is to solve. Created Pushmo’s can be shared via QR Code images that can be scanned by the 3DS and saved to the SD card – you can check out my own failed attempt at immortalizing our heroic sugarcube here.

Given that words will only do so much toward advancing the Pushmo agenda, be sure to check out the trailer below, and if any of you out there share my new addiction, be sure to report back here with some QR Codes on the double.

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