|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Intelligent Systems|
|Release: June 19, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Becky Cunningham
There are those who insist that Nintendo never develops great new franchises anymore, and then there are those who have played Pushmo. This deceptively simple puzzle series made its debut on the 3DS, but it has now buffed up for an appearance on the Wii U eShop. Thanks to improvements in content, pace and usability, Pushmo World is the best of the series and has quickly become one of my favorite puzzle games of all time.
The basic concept of Pushmo is quite simple. Our hero, the adorably rotund Mallo, must scale “Pushmo” block puzzles by creating climbable platforms for himself. Mallo creates stairs and platforms by pulling out blocks. The puzzles start out two-dimensional, but each colored block segment can be pulled out up to three squares total, provided Mallo has the footing either to the front or on the side of his current block. Pushmo puzzles may all be three squares deep, but they vary greatly in height and width, with a wide variety of block shapes designed to challenge players.
Just as players become comfortable with the basic Pushmo puzzles, the game begins to throw gadgets into the works, giving Mallo teleporters that help him traverse the puzzle (provided both teleport entrances are pulled out and unobstructed) and switches that pull out or push in all blocks of a single color. Even without these gadgets, many puzzles are tricky and require lateral thinking, but with them, the puzzle creators have found many ways to bust our brains.
That's the best thing about Pushmo, and is done quite well in Pushmo World's all-new puzzles. The game never dwells too long on one particular kind of challenge. Instead, it constantly invents new block combinations that require different kinds of solutions from players. It's impressive how agile this simple formula is in the hands of talented puzzle creators, and solving a tricky Pushmo is always a satisfying experience.
Pushmo veterans will have to deal with one set of tutorial puzzles in Pushmo World, and it would have been nice to get the option to skip the tutorial text, but the game doesn't dwell too much on instruction. It quickly jumps into things, with puzzles that will challenge, if not stump, even veterans early on. Instead of boring players with unnecessary tutorials or tips, Pushmo World contains a practice area that provides easier versions of the challenges players will find in the main puzzle segment of the game. A helper character in practice mode will even demonstrate the solution to players who are particularly stumped, but you're on your own when it comes to the normal mode puzzles. This is a great way to give players the tools they need to tackle the game's puzzles without talking down to them as too many modern Nintendo games seem to do.
If the regular puzzles aren't tricky enough for you, Pushmo World contains a separate area full of Mysterious Pushmo. These crazy puzzles are full of funky blocks, like yin-yang blocks that push each other in and out, or timed blocks that retract entirely after their time is up. Mysterious Pushmo are reasonably sized, so they're not only a fresh take on the game's formula but a nice change from the huge puzzles that tend to crop up late in the regular puzzle sections.
Little quality of life touches make Pushmo World a joy to play even if you find yourself facing a particularly difficult puzzle. The left button reverses time, allowing players to recover from a situation in which they have fallen off the puzzle or accidentally blocked their own progress. Players can skip a puzzle that they find too difficult, and unlike the original game, the “skip” option appears quite soon after starting up a puzzle. You'll want to go back and finish those stumpers eventually, though, and not only because finishing a puzzle means rescuing an adorable child who is stuck at the top of the puzzle. Completing all ten puzzles in a set now awards a Miiverse stamp, and we all know how much fun it is to play with Miiverse stamps.
All of these puzzles would be more than enough for a regular puzzle game, but Pushmo World (like the original game) allows you go design your own puzzles and share them with the world. Players can create their own puzzles in the Pushmo studio, with all the basic tools needed to make the same puzzles found in the game (with the exception of Mysterious Pushmo's special blocks). At the Pushmo World Fair, players can check out the creations of others, and I've already completed a number of fun puzzles conjured up by other players. If nothing else, attempting to design one's own Pushmo gives you an appreciation for the design skills of the game's developers. And never fear... there are no impossible puzzles in the World Fair because you have to solve your own Pushmo before you're allowed to share it.