Pushmo/Pullblox Review (3DS)

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.

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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.

Pros:

  • Cute, solid graphical style.
  • Nicely priced.
  • Almost endless levels with ability to download QR codes.

Cons:

  • 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.

Score 9/10

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14 Comments

  1. :o! This looks fantastic!

  2. IGN loved this too. May pick this up in the new year if Sandy Claws leaves me some money to spend.

  3. Does anybody buy Nintendo download games? I was under the impression that very few people did?

    • Not usually, but every once in a while one like this comes along and really should be snapped up.

      • This is number one in the eShop charts, fwiw.

  4. So, it’s like Catherine, only not for perverts?

    • … not for perverts?
      :(
      I was literally just buying it…

      • I meant Catherine as the pervert’s choice. If you’re getting off on Pushmo… that’s… it’s…

        I don’t even want to finish that sentence.

    • Don’t know how this game gets credit for ingenuity. This is Catherine without an actual story, as mugsybalone stated. Great for them being able to execute it well. But let’s not forget that Catherine is likely the direct inspiration for this game.

      • To be fair it also features a detailed but easy to use level creator, something Catherine is definately lacking. Plus its under a fiver compared to the £40 price tag that Catherine is likely to have. Don’t get me wrong, I want both games, just sayin.. :)

      • Woah there – I just said Catherine was for perverts, lets not start putting words in my mouth :D

      • Sorry there mugs. Didn’t mean it as a direct quote from you. The only reason I stated it the way I did is because many niche games start a trend that they are never recognized for. I played Catherine and hated it. Story seemed interesting but I’m just not much of a puzzler no matter how it’s skinned. But I do think Catherine was a very inventive game with a lot of originality. I wish Pushmo nothing but success and I hope everyone enjoys playing it. And in no way am I trying to trash talk nofi’s review. I enjoy reading (most) everything nofi posts and give him props for shining some light on a downloadable game for the 3DS. Very few sites do that.

      • Hey, no worries, I was just kidding around with the pervert comment! I can’t really say much though, as I’ve been there, done that, bought the special edition with the boxer shorts.

        On-topic, you make a fair point, there are definitely games that inspire more popular titles that don’t always receive recognition for it – Namco’s Kill Switch on the PS2 springs to mind – a game that inspired the cover mechanic for the Gears of War series (according to Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinksi). That said, I don’t think Catherine will be forgotten, although it’ll be better remembered for its story, style and content over the mechanics of the actual puzzle part of the game.

  5. The ladyfriend picked this up earlier in the week and is loving it, looks great.

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