Pushmo: Getting around mental blocks is a challenge

January 17, 2012

The Nintendo 3DS eShop has, until recently, relied largely on its Virtual Console offerings and DSiWare fare to keep it afloat. Now, though, we’re seeing a few polished titles make it to the service, and Intelligent Systems’ Pushmo is the first of what we’re hoping is a wave of smaller-scale greatness.

The premise of this puzzle game is simple. Well, sort of. There are formations of blocks in a wall, and you can pull out (or push in) these blocks to create platforms and climb up to rescue stuck kids. (I’d explain why they were up there and got stuck, but when you think that they’re stuck in completely flat space and that their presence somehow creates a logo on the outside of the block, you can stop trying to make this premise seem reasonable.)

The concept creates a different sort of brain-teasing experience than we’ve seen before. You have to know when to prepare by pulling blocks out, jumping around and generally getting all the processes done in the right order. There are even a few platforming tricks, like jumping around corners and traversing gaps, that you may not be expecting in a puzzle game like this.

The visuals are charming. Intelligent Systems has spent its entire life creating games within the Nintendo aesthetic, and it knows the hardware as well as anyone, avoiding its limitations and focusing on giving its games a strong visual voice. The music is, well, adequate, and serves its purpose of letting you focus on the task at hand.

The base game has more puzzles than you’d really expect at the $7 price point, but you’re not limited to that: players can create their own levels and share them using QR codes. (Yes, we’d rather have a centralized server for these things, but barring that, the process is about as good as can be expected.)

While the 3DS starts to accumulate good retail games, it’s increasingly important to have a good change-of-pace to switch to on the go. Pushmo is totally that.

Pros: Great idea, a wealth of well-executed content
Cons: A bit of Nintendo Forced Tutorial Syndrome, no in-game level sharing

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.