Pushmo Park has another dimension
Pushmo, or Pullblox, was released on the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop in 2011 and was instantly regarded as one of the system’s best downloadable titles. Papa Blox the puzzle builder and Mallo, the chubby sumo protagonist, pulled on our heartstrings as well as our blocks. The simple, yet creative puzzles drew in audiences and the game’s level creation mode kept people playing. Now, one year later, Intelligent Systems has released Crashmo, or Fallblox (as it is known in Europe).
In this game, you return to the Pushmo Park to discover Papa Blox’s granddaughter has come to visit in a balloon flown by 100 birds. When these birds are scared off into the nearby Crashmo Park area, you once again find yourself on a mission to complete a series of block puzzles, this time to retrieve the birds perched on top of each one. Aside from the 100 main levels, there are training levels that will be unlocked as you progress through the game to introduce each of the new tools Papa Blox has devised for more complicated Crashmo creation. Eventually, you will even unlock access to a series of prototype Crashmo that are one block thicker than the normal puzzles, making for a slightly different stacking mechanic. Sadly, while completing a Crashmo that uses a new tool will unlock it for your own level creation, you cannot utilize the thicker blocks for your own Crashmo-building.
There are many small changes to the Pushmo formula that make the game control more fluid. No longer do you automatically start new levels, so it is easier to pick up and put down the game for casual play, while allowing more dedicated players to still power through. The levels are larger than before (at least at ground level), so you can move all around the Crashmo and even behind them. The enhanced movement in this game needed a better camera, and they have added one that can be rotated or angled. This also means that the game actually takes advantage of the system’s 3D effects (though it is hardly a necessary feature). The best part about the movable camera is the ability to pose the level for a picture, which can be shared with friends via Swapnote or simply transferred on the SD card.
While it is great how Intelligent Systems made tutorial levels optional this time around in Crashmo, I feel as though many of the levels in the main game had a large leap forward in difficulty compared to the tutorials. They were not difficult in the traditional trial-and-error style of puzzle gaming, but more in a you-get-it-or-you-don’t way. Many Crashmo I would solve either in the first two minutes of playing or not until I had spent ten minutes scratching my head and resetting the level every other move. In fact, it is almost as though the developers recognized this, as they changed the system of allowing players to skip a level they had attempted for a few minutes and instead opted for an immediate skip button to jet past any level that doesn’t strike your fancy. Even though the game provides rewind and reset options in levels, the fact that blocks are falling down and will likely land out of place can frustrate players early on. Thankfully, there is also included extra content in the form of a music player and the bird balloon, where you can relax and talk to all the birds you have rescued for random facts and tips.
Another annoyance is the lack of sprite-based levels, which were a staple of Pushmo. There are only a handful of picture Crashmo, and these appear late in the game. Furthermore, while the first game had many puzzles in the shape of classic Nintendo characters, Crashmo only has a few, and all of which appeared in Pushmo. Most of the levels created by the online community were based on sprites, so it is sad to see the series go in a different direction.
Level creation is arguably the most important part of this series. The level creation screen is made slightly easier this time around, but lacks the ability to change background music, which one might expect when the game included a music player for you to browse all the songs. Also, while Pushmo pushed the idea of making bigger and better levels, Crashmo seems to focus on making the level creators do more thinking themselves before publishing in order to make more entertaining levels. Even if you build a complex sprite, it could easily fall to pieces without setting cloud blocks or using other such tools to create roadblocks for your prospective players to overcome.
In the end, Crashmo is not as entertaining or easy to pick up as Pushmo, but it is still a solid title that shows technical improvement over the last game. For an eShop download, it is priced well enough that it is worth playing for anyone who is a fan of puzzle games or likes something they can play for a few minutes at a time. Since much of the value comes from sharing levels, it will take some time to see if enough people pick up the game to make this a long-running success like Pushmo. Until then, we can only keep on playing and see where the chips (and blocks) fall.
Tested on 3DS