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After languishing in a void of lackluster retail releases, lame battery issues, and an eShop brimming with nothing original to play, the Nintendo 3DS is starting to come around as a solid system to have and to hold. Okay, well, the battery issues still remain a problem, but whatever, at least there's befitting videogames to finally play on the dang thing. Since launching in June 2011, the system's eShop has featured 3DS Classics, such as Excitebike and TwinBee, Virtual Console re-releases, such as Kirby's Dream Land and Mario Picross, and then original 3DSWare games, such as...well, not much really. A handful of titles, but nothing too memorable.
However, word around the Interwebz is that Pushmo (called Pullbox in Europe), the newest release for 3DSWare, is pretty stellar, akin to Picross 3D in terms of its puzzles and addictive nature. Seeing as I ate up over 350 puzzles in Picross 3D, more puzzles for on the go is something I need and quickly handed over my ecash to Nintendo.
So, let's push and pull some blocks for thirty minutes and hopefully have a fantastic time.
00 - Starting Pushmo, but first things first—the 3DS needs to create some save data. I let it do its thing, and then we're off to Pushmo Park, a place filled with Pushmo, the name given to these special puzzles where blocks must be pushed and pulled in certain ways so that our little guy can climb to the top of it. The cartoony graphics are cute and colorful, and actually create a nice effect with the 3D slider turned up. Not all the way, mind you.
01 – Lesson 1! A young Pushmo-er is trapped inside a puzzle, and an older Pushmo-er tries to free him, but ends up hurting his back. We're now in control of the younger being, whose name is Mallo.
02 – Mallo pulls a hunk of blocks out towards the screen to form a staircase. Seems like the Pushmo-er trapped at the top is scared to come down, so we make Mallo hop up there and get him. Easy peasy. Level cleared!
04 – The older Pushmo-er wants Mallo to check out some of the other puzzles in Pushmo Park in case anyone else is trapped in them. The first one we review seems fine, but then a punkish Pushmo-er comes bumbling through and messes everything up.
06 – Solved two more lesson puzzles and learned about reset switches and how a block can only be pulled forward up to three times. Good to know, but these lessons are pretty easy and can't be skipped. I feel like I already know all the tricks to Pushmo at this point in time.
07 – If you make a mistake, you can rewind time by holding down the L button. What is this, Braid?
10 – Lesson 8 now. Learning about side pulling.
13 – Still on basic lessons. The last few have relied heavily on using side pulling, a technique I suspect will be vital in the future.
16 – Lesson 15 now. Learning about how you can't move a block you're actually standing on. Y'know, something I figured out for myself awhile ago.
21 – Lesson 18, the final tutorial lesson, was actually a little tricky. I had to hit the reset button twice and just try out a few ideas, but I eventually solved it. The old, wheezing man thanks Mallo, and asks the young Pushmo-er if he could go check on the other Pushmo for trapped children. Of course. What else would we do in this game?
22 – Progress report time! I unlocked Pushmo Studio and rescued 18 out of 18 children during our time in tutorial land. Okay, let's try out the first non-tutorial puzzle in Challenge 1-1. Oh wait. The old man is back, telling us about the...pause button. Yeah, got it, gramps. Okay, that was a fairly easy one. I'm assuming the difficulty is really going to ramp up at some point. Right? Maybe?
25 – Okay, plowed through Challenges 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, and 1-5. Nothing gets in Mallo's way.
28 – Challenge 1-6 was a wee tricky. You kind of had to reverse your plan of attack and go at it backwards. Definitely feels rewarding to figure the puzzle out on your own, climb to the top, and save the little kid.
30 – And Challenge 1-8 brings out the big guns. This one required a lot of trial and error, even though I could sorta see the solution. I just couldn't attain it the way I wanted. At least we're ending this half-hour with a bang and not a bust...or another tutorial level.
What I liked: Controlling Mallo feels good, and he's able to push and pull blocks swiftly, making the puzzle-solving a quick affair, not that it matters as the levels are untimed, but it helps keep the puzzles coming, one after the other. The music's pretty great, hand-in-hand with the game's graphics, which don't push the system to the edge, but fit well with the 3D effect; backgrounds have a paper-like look to them, reminiscent of Paper Mario and Yoshi's Island.
What I didn't like: Well, three-fourths of the first thirty minutes of Pushmo are locked into tutorial levels, most of which are simple and frustrating in their simpleness. For a system that's meant to be played on the go or in short bursts, this is damaging. Too much forced instruction, especially where it's not really needed; a lot of what the old man was teaching Mallo (and me) could have easily been learned through actually playing a puzzle.
Story: Not much here, just a bunch of kids trapped in puzzles, and it's up to Mallo to rescue them. However, that old gramps character is wheezing and complaining about his bad back a lot—kinda worried about him to be honest. Maybe at some point Mallo will have to solve him.
Gameplay: Just a whole bunch of puzzles. You push and pull sections of a block to create a way up to the top and save a child. Rinse and repeat, though there might be some wrenches thrown into the mix every now and then. Looking forward to those.
Nintendonly on the 3DS: The 3D effect is actually quite nice here, considering Mallo is pushing and pulling blocks towards and away from the screen, creating a sense of depth. There's no touchscreen usage though, as you move Mallo with the circle pad and use the face buttons to move blocks and jump. Evidently, though I haven't tried this yet, you can create your own Pushmo levels and share them with friends online via QR codes.
Fun Factor: Um...puzzles are fun? Yes, puzzles are fun.
Would I keep playing? Yes. Sadly, it took almost the entire thirty minutes to get to the trickier puzzles, the ones that are frustrating, but so rewarding to solve. I want to eat those up. Seems like I'm now on the right path to more, more, more, and will keep going, as well as give Pushmo Studio a try and see if I can make anything fun for someone else to solve. If only The First Hour had a mascot, I'd make a level around it.