Pushmo is to this day one of the first suggestions out of my mouth or fingers when somebody asks me the question: what games should I get for my 3DS? It had some faults to be sure, but the level of ingenuity, playfulness and the joy of the presentation is hard to match. Crashmo then takes that formula and adds a new wrinkle that fundamentally alters the puzzle structure. The question is, is that really enough to justify buying another game that looks and plays so similarly?
If you’re like me and even downloaded some extra Pushmo levels because you burned through the original game so quickly, there’s a whole lot to love here. If, however, you were put off by the smallish amount of content, the presentation, the music, the controls or really anything else that made Pushmo what it was, you should probably think about looking elsewhere.
Pushmo was all about pushing and pulling blocks to reach the top of a tower. That was really all you could do, you were quite limited in how you could manipulate the puzzles. There were several mechanical wrinkles they tossed in along the way to keep the gameplay fresh (much like what they do in Crashmo), and it did occasionally frustrate and challenge, but it wasn’t that tough of a game. Crashmo adds in the ability to move blocks around in all directions, moving them out of the way of other blocks so they ‘crash’ to the ground or on to other blocks. The restrictiveness of the first game that occasionally got annoying is gone here, which is a great thing. Instead of not being able to pull blocks if it made you fall off a platform, which is what many of the puzzles in the first game relied on, here you just fall off the edge as you’re pulling it, which still snaps the block into place. Even that small mechanical change makes a huge difference, and it threw me off several times when I forgot I was now able to do that. My brain had been programmed to Pushmo’s mechanics and hadn’t adjusted yet.
Another complaint of mine was the laborious tutorial system that Pushmo implemented. It felt like you were a 5 year old being lead around, having to mash on the A button just to be allowed to play a puzzle. Crashmo pretty much just gets out of your way instead, putting the tutorial section in a completely different menu, allowing you to just forge ahead by yourself in ‘Crashmo Park’. It’s what I preferred, though I did occasionally poke into the tutorial missions to see what they had cooked up. Often they gave you some new twists or mechanics you hadn’t thought of yet, like pulling a block sideways off a platform you’re currently standing on. If you can’t figure out the tutorial, a new helper jumps in and does it for you, so you’re never stuck on learning those new twists. It’s a great way to do the tutorial system, and is a massive improvement on one of my main complaints about Pushmo.
My other majour complaint about Pushmo is alive and well here in Crashmo, and that’s the difficulty level. Too often I would just push blocks around without really stopping and thinking about the solution, and it would pop into place for me. I am someone who loves puzzle games and excels in spatial thinking, but I wanted to be challenged more. I would say the difficulty level has been ramped up from Pushmo, often because there are more tricks or ways you can manipulate blocks that you hadn’t thought of before, instead of just dealing with the ‘can’t pull this block because I’ll fall off’ limitation. It did cause me to warp my brain a bit more which was absolutely a welcome change, but it still didn’t feel like quite enough.
Carrying over from Pushmo is the studio, allowing you to create your own puzzles and share them online with others. I didn’t delve into that as much this time, as it seems the Crashmo community either hasn’t or won’t develop to the level that the Pushmo community did around the time of it’s release. Hopefully it will grow in time, but even if it doesn’t you still do get a decent amount of content for $6.99. Of course that’s often the problem with puzzle games, just as you’re really mastering everything, it feels like the game is done and dusted. I think things like Portal 2’s community level generator and Crashmo’s studio makes a big difference to the longevity of puzzle games and the value you get out of their whole package.
So, long story short? If you liked Pushmo, you’ll love Crashmo. It’s more of the same, but it mixes things up to really give it a fresh take. If you didn’t like Pushmo, keep walking and look elsewhere.
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