Intelligent Systems, the brains behind some of Nintendo’s finest games – Advance Wars, Wario Ware, Paper Mario – have, in a single swoop, completely overset the apple-cart marked ‘Game Of The Year’. In terms of purity, ingenuity and raw gameplay perfection, Pullblox (or Pushmo, if your 3DS is American) is quite simply one of the best things you’ll play all year.[videoyoutube]Arriving via the portable’s eShop (for just over a fiver) this unassuming puzzler involves an ample selection of challenges based around a small set of core principles and mechanics, namely thus: you need to rescue a trapped child; the child is normally well out of reach and to get to the top of each puzzle you must pull (and, as you might have guessed, push) blocks in and out of the screen.
By doing so you create platforms. It’s perhaps best if you think of the game like a stationary cross section of a LittleBigPlanet level, in the sense that there’s three dimensional depth as well as the X and Y movement. Pull a section of the level out and it’s physically there to jump onto, drag another alongside it and you can make the leap to that one. It’s not a platformer, at least not by definition, but there are platforming aspects.
Instead, Pullblox is very much a thinking caps on kind of game. There’s rarely any need to rush, restarting is penalty free and lateral thinking will – ultimately – always reward you with the answer. Or at least a starting point, as the levels quickly move from tutorial on a gradual but not inconsiderable difficulty slope.
As the game progresses more elements are introduced that significantly up the levels of concentration required, but no puzzle is ever overfacing, the solutions often much simpler than you might think. It’s a lengthy enough game, too, especially given the price, but there’s potentially an infinite amount of challenges available through the game’s editor mode, which lets you create your own puzzles and download others from the web via the magic of QR codes.
The whole package is effortlessly slick. Controls are simple (move, jump and grab), the presentation’s cute and bubbly and – aside from the slightly drawn out introductionary period – the levels are expertly designed. Even the editor is painless, although you’ll need to make some headway into the main game before the best bits are unlocked for your own creations. The ability to download QR codes that instantly create a climbable Mario, though, is there from the beginning.
- Cute, solid graphical style.
- Nicely priced.
- Almost endless levels with ability to download QR codes.
- Tutorial section drags a little.
Well, this is a surprise indeed: seemingly out of nowhere Intelligent Systems have crafted one of the finest games this year. It’s unassuming and yet simultaneously deeply addictive, the simple ideas behind the game hooking you in and keeping you there for far longer than some games ten times the price. I adore titles like this that just appear and remind you exactly why gaming can be so good when just done right. Brilliant stuff.