While a common complaint amongst gamers is that Nintendo hasn’t ventured into the untested waters of new IPs in recent years, that’s only partly true at this point, mainly due to the ventures the company has undertaken within the booming smaller-scale downloadable game market. Since its launch, the 3DS has seen an ever-growing selection of quirky and experimental new franchises brought to its eShop store by Nintendo themselves.
In my opinion, one of Nintendo’s most unique eShop exclusives is the 3DS puzzle game Pushmo. Both it and its follow-up, Crashmo, presented a very clever and original take on the puzzle genre, foregoing randomized levels in favor of preset ones that took full advantage of both games’ interesting gameplay mechanics. Now, the original game has received a direct high-def sequel in the form of the download-only Wii U exclusive, Pushmo World, and while there isn’t that much of a leap forward in terms of gameplay mechanics, some noteworthy enhancements and even more brain-bending puzzles should be enough to entice both fans of the original and newcomers alike.
Pushmo World, in a rare move for a puzzle game, does have a story, but it’s extremely light and basically the same as what we saw with its predecessor. Players take control of Mallo, a rotund creature of some sort who possesses a knack for solving Pushmo puzzles, which are numerous in his world. An accident causes dozens of kids that Mallo was looking after to get stuck in the puzzles, leading him to set out to conquer each one.
Really, the brief intro and occasional cutscenes exist less to further an engaging story and more to explain and introduce Pushmo World‘s clever mechanics. You see, instead of using a cursor or controlling items, the game tasks players with using the GamePad’s joystick to move Mallo himself around.
Each level contains a Pushmo puzzle, which is a collection of different colored shapes (some abstract, and some others resembling familiar items or creatures) that Mallo can pull into the foreground from the front or side, so long as he has somewhere to stand the whole time. Each shape can be pulled out up to three layers deep, to basically form a bizarre sort of steps for Mallo to gradually get higher, pull out more shapes, and reach the goal that is typically found near the top.
The core gameplay of the original 3DS Pushmo is basically unchanged here, especially for the first half of the game’s main campaign. Returning features from the handheld version include switches to jump on to cause every piece of a certain color to jut out the full three layers, as well as pairs of colored manholes that essentially allow Mallo to warp to parts of a Pushmo that would otherwise be inaccessible.
For veterans of the series, there are indeed some new gameplay elements, like levels where pulling out one block will automatically do the same for all others of the same color, but those interested in returning to the series should keep in mind that you’ll have to play a fair amount of the game before those levels become accessible. This new version also fails to mix things up quite as well as Crashmo did.
Then again, this may have been a smart move the more I think about it, because it’s very possible that many of the Wii U owners who will try this game out won’t have played the original. Welcome returning features, like the ability to rewind gameplay with the L button, do make a comeback here and are helpful in letting players avoid having to start levels over if they make a mistake and fall off a high and now-inaccessible point.
Graphically, while the Pushmo series has never been about pushing the horsepower on Nintendo systems the way recent games like Mario Kart 8 have, the series has still received a pleasant facelift for its first high-definition entry. The character models and environments have a lot more detail, and even the individual Pushmo pieces have a subtle but noticeable texture to them. The simple but pleasant soundtrack is also appropriately bouncy and charming.
A trademark feature that the series has had from the start is the Pushmo Studio mode, which enables players to make their own levels from scratch and share them with the world. While the handheld entries’ sharing capabilities were limited to creating QR codes to either post on Miiverse or copy to your computer and post wherever you wished, Pushmo World thankfully includes a built-in database of sorts, allowing you to sort by either new submissions or most popular creations. There, players can provide feedback, vote on each custom level, and save favorite levels to their system for later use if they desire. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for a company like Nintendo, which has always been hesitant about embracing online capabilities when compared to the likes of Sony and Microsoft, and it’s something that I hope future titles will expand upon.
As mentioned before, Pushmo World is lacking in innovation, which prevents it from being a truly great title. At the same time, returning players will be happy to have hundreds of new puzzles to try out, as well as improved content sharing options at their fingertips. Newcomers surely won’t be as bothered, and should give this title a shot if they’re looking for a new puzzle game to play.
This review is based on the Wii U exclusive, which Nintendo provided us with.
Pushmo World offers the same great gameplay as its predecessor, along with better sharing options for custom levels, but veterans may not feel like there's enough to it in order to justify a repeat purchase.