Nintendo 3DS

Pushmo Playtest: No Need To Shove, There’s Plenty Of Puzzles Here


Pushmo begins with Papa Blox hanging about in Pushmo Park with Mallo. Papa’s watching kids play with Pushmo — climbing wall puzzles designed by him — when a prankster tears through the park, hitting the “Reset” button on everything, which causes all the Pushmo puzzles to close, trapping the kids inside them. Mallo, being the kind soul he is, agrees to solve all the Pushmo puzzles one by one to find the kid trapped inside each one. That’s a lot of puzzles (about 250) and a lot of kids to save.


Pushmo puzzles are constructed using large blocks of various shapes. You can jump around onto these using the A button. By holding the B button, you can pull these blocks outward, or push them back. By doing this, you have to ultimately create a path that you can climb to the very top of the of Pushmo, which is where you’ll find the kid you have to rescue. The game begins with a simple Tutorial chapter where Papa Blox teaches you the controls. The first 18 puzzles in the game are technically tutorials, but you’ll breeze through them in no time.


Other puzzles are far more difficult, and it won’t be as simple as pulling or pushing a few blocks one by one as you make your way to the top. You’ll have to make your way up and down the entire structure over and over, pushing and pulling blocks into different positions, rearranging paths until you finally make your way to the top. It’s a little bit like a Rubix Cube in concept — you might find the solution to one side, but you still have to dismantle it in order to ultimately solve the entire puzzle.


Since some of the Pushmo puzzles can be fairly large in size (especially the tall, tower-like ones), Intelligent Systems made it so you can hold down the R button, and the camera zooms out to give you a view of the entire puzzle. I usually used this feature to help decide my first move.


Sometimes, you’ll discover you may already have created a path that will take you where you want to go, but it took you a bit longer to figure how to actually climb it. This makes Pushmo feel a bit like a platformer as well. Since you’re always jumping around, there’s also a handy “Rewind” button, in the event that you climb really high up and fall off by mistake. If you hold down L, the game rewinds quickly, just like a videotape would, complete with rewinding sounds. A bar appears and begins to deplete to show how far back you can rewind (usually quite a lot). Once you’ve rewound back to the spot you want to be at, you can stop holding L and the game resumes right away. In the event that you feel you’ve screwed up a puzzle completely and want to start over, you can jump down to the ground and hop onto the “Reset” switch.


Intelligent Systems came up with a smart use for 3D in Pushmo, too. Since the various blocks are of different colours, you’ll always be able to tell them apart from one another. However, as you can probably tell from the screenshots, when you’ve got several blocks layered one on top of the other in complex shapes, it takes a little concentration to understand how they’re arranged and how much space there is between them. I tried playing puzzles with 3D turned off, and while it’s certainly doable, turning the 3D on immediately throws everything into perspective and makes it easier to understand where each block is in 3D space. Aside from experimenting with the 3D slider in some of the early puzzles for this playtest, I never turned 3D off.


Pushmo also lets you create and share puzzles using QR codes. I’m still working on a Samus-shaped puzzle, little by little. The level editor is easy to use and it lets you pick from a very wide range of colours for your blocks. You can unlock a more advanced level editor after solving a certain number of puzzles as well.


Food for thought:

Sometimes, I like using the Rewind feature over and over while Mallo’s making a giant leap.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.