By Ethan . June 19, 2014 . 8:30am
There are two approaches to discussing Intelligent Systems’ Pushmo World for Wii U. First are those who will praise the game’s puzzle mechanics that are fundamentally simple but allow for deviously complicated head scratchers.
They will praise the difficulty curve that introduces players to concepts without being condescending and the level creation/sharing features. They will praise the subtly altered camera controls that ensure it’s always easy to see what needs to be seen even without the benefit of the well implemented 3D effect the original benefitted from.
Then there are also those who will point out that for all that Pushmo World does well, it has all been done well before. Pushmo World can barely be considered an iteration on the original game’s design. The puzzle mechanics are the same, the multiplayer level sharing was there on the 3DS, and the smart level skip and rewind mechanics that minimize frustration have been there from the beginning.
Sure, the new camera controls are nice, but that improvement aids spatial awareness the same way that the 3D screen did in the original. It’s not so much an improvement as it is a necessary alteration to make the game work on a different screen.
Neither of these thought processes are incorrect. Pushmo World is very good, and Pushmo World is very familiar. More of the same, but no longer conveniently portable.
My perspective, however, lands more with the positive thinkers. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to demand iterations of design from a series like Pushmo. I see these games almost like Sudoku coffee table books, or perhaps more directly, like Nintendo’s Picross games. Sometimes providing a new set of challenges without significant changes to the how or the what is okay.
Personally, I think that the expectation of new features and systems that we hold for iterations of action games and RPGs don’t make sense in the context of a puzzle game with no aspirations to provide anything beyond puzzles.
How much you get out of Pushmo World will depend entirely on expectation. If you want the next big thing in Pushmo, you won’t be satisfied. But if you want well designed puzzles that tease you with solutions hidden in plain sight, that reward critical thinking but don’t punish trial and error, and that make you stomp about in rage but look incredibly simple the next day… if you want those things, you’ll have a blast. I had a blast.
Food for thought:
1. There was a Pushmo sequel that changed the rules of the game, but I never liked the block falling puzzles from Crashmo very much, and I’m glad to see Intelligent Systems reverting to their original design.
2. Pushmo was a fantastic portable game, but it turns out that it’s also a fantastic living room game. The rules are simple enough that bystanders can quickly figure out the rules and give advice. I had some great cooperative puzzle-solving moments reminiscent of cooperative play in Zack and Wiki.
3. Our hero Mallo doesn’t throw rescued children into the air nearly as recklessly as he once did. His many trials have taught him the true meaning of responsibility.