Pushmo was a fantastic little puzzle game released on the 3DS eShop about a year ago that you may or may not have played (you should though, it was great). If you have not played Pushmo there is still a good chance that you’ve probably played one of Intelligent Systems, the developers, previous games such as Fire Emblem, Paper Mario, Advance Wars, or WarioWare. In regards to Pushmo, it was a simple yet addictive title that had charm and really made you think to progress past each puzzle. The sequel was released on the 3DS eShop a little while ago. It is called Crashmo. If you’re simply expecting a ‘map pack’ or a simple expansion of Pushmo put those worries to rest; Crashmo is a fully realized sequel that expands on the mechanics from Pushmo, almost to the point of being too difficult.
Crashmo somehow retains the original charm from the first game yet is drastically different enough that it feels like a whole new experience and evolution of gameplay. No longer will you simply just be pushing blocks around as you, who controls the games hero Mallo, will find a whole bag of new tricks to reach the goal at the top of each Crashmo puzzle. There’s a fine line with puzzle games that always needs to be balanced; too hard and some people will give up and stop playing. Too easy and it’s over too quickly and it is not as rewarding. Crashmo is not only over the line of being too difficult, but it can’t even see the line any longer. Crashmo is incredibly challenging, even during some of the earliest stages, so prepare to put your thinking cap on and to stare at the screen for quite some time trying to figure out the solution to each puzzle.
For those that missed playing Pushmo, it was essentially a puzzle game where you control Mallo, the games hero, and you push and pull blocks of different shapes and sizes in an effort to rescue the child at the top of each puzzle. In Crashmo, Mallo must save birds perched on top of each Crashmo puzzle. Yep, don’t expect a deep story by any means, as Crashmo’s strength is its brutal difficulty to solving each puzzle. The general goal of Crashmo might be the same, by manipulating blocks to reach the goal on top of each puzzle, but there are so many new tricks that Mallo has learned since his last outing that Crashmo is a much more deep and challenging game.
There are a slew of new mechanics in Crashmo that make it so much more than a simple ‘map pack’ of new puzzles in relation to Pushmo. The most notable action you’ll be using on a very regular basis is the ability to now slide blocks from side to side rather than just pushing and pulling. This might not sound like a big addition, but it drastically alters how you’re going to move and solve each puzzle, as it’s adds a whole new layer to your solutions. Mallo can only move blocks on the X and the Y axis and he’s unable to rotate or flip blocks in any way, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this will be easy; there are many more tricks up Crashmo’s sleeves to stump you every chance it can.
As the game’s title implies, if you happen to move a block out from underneath another block, the block on top will come crashing down to the ground. This adds another layer of complexity into your strategy, as you need to constantly be monitoring what level a block is on, as to not accidently let it drop and have the puzzle become unsolvable. For those times you do make a mistake and let this happen, and believe me, it will happen more than you wish, Mallo is able to reverse time for a short time period to correct any mistakes made. If you really mess up and the puzzle is a total loss you can jump on a reset button to start fresh and hopefully with a better strategy.
To add even more layers of complexity to the games strategy, you’ll eventually have to solve puzzles with things like floating blocks that are immovable, move switches, doors, and more. Getting to the top to get the bird will not be as easy as you think, and every ten levels or so a new mechanic is introduced to ease you into thinking of a new way to solve the next coming puzzles.
Another change and improvement in Crashmo is the ability to manipulate the camera with much more control. You can no longer control Mallo with the D-Pad as the D-Pad now controls the camera so you can move to get a better angle of your Crashmo puzzle in hopes of solving it. Being able to zoom in and out helps sometimes, but being able to rotate fully around the puzzle will be a necessity at times to solve certain puzzles.
Crashmo starts off with very simple puzzles, slowly building up your confidence and teaching you new mechanics and strategies to solve certain situations. There are about twenty or so tutorial levels where you can get assistance if needed, but as soon as you’re done those levels and are put out on your own against new stages and it is here you will notice the massive spike in difficulty almost instantly. Truth be told, the difficulty spike even on the first level (1-1, not the tutorial levels) is quite challenging, and as you progress to each world (ten in each), it introduces a new mechanic, like floating blocks for example, just as you finally get the hang of the previous puzzles. Make no doubt about it, you will get stuck, and you will become frustrated, it’s as simple as that; but when you finally solve a puzzle that has had you stumped for so long, it’s very gratifying. If you want to finish Crashmo though, you’ll probably have to look up a walkthrough or two to solve some of the real mindbenders.
Just like in Pushmo, Crashmo allows you to create your own puzzles and then share them via QR codes online. You can create puzzles with varying colors of blocks and any of the special blocks you’ve encountered along the way. As soon as you’re done your masterpiece in the Crashmo Studio you can then convert it into a QR code to share with your friends or online with everyone. It’s a shame you have to share these codes outside of the game and that there is not a built in ‘store’ or sorts within the game itself to share the best ones. This means many players won’t even use this option, as you have to manually hunt down these creations for yourself. There are some clever creations out there, and there’s nothing quite as fun as solving a Crashmo that looks like an 8-bit sprite from a classic game you grew up with.
This brings me to one of my complaints with Crashmo; there are nowhere near enough ‘picture’ levels. The majority of the game is random blocks of shapes and sizes as opposed to pixel art or things drawn out of the blocks themselves. As well, the 3D slider adds some depth, as to be expected, but I was hoping it would somehow add something more to the game itself, as you’re constantly playing on a grid and with varying depths of the blocks. My final complaint is about the difficulty level in Crashmo, which is a double edged sword. Yes, a puzzle game should be challenging, but to a point. I am normally decent and can hold my own with puzzle games, but wow, I couldn’t believe how tough Crashmo was, almost from the very beginning as well. Even some of the earliest puzzles are very difficult to figure out and you might even convince yourself at different points that a specific puzzle is actually impossible. Sure you’ll eventually figure it out, but there was actually one level that I was stuck on for about two hours and it was infuriating me as I was trying everything I could think of but with no luck. I figure this may alienate some people from picking up this game.
With over 100 puzzles to solve, Crashmo should last you quite a while especially if you don’t cheat and lookup walkthroughs online when you get stuck. The amount of new additions and puzzle mechanics that Crashmo has over its previous game is almost astounding. Crashmo is truly great if you like hardcore puzzles and desire a challenge. If you’re more of a casual fan I do think that you will enjoy the bright and colorful artwork to match the gibberish speaking, but prepare yourself for a mental thrashing. At the end of the day you will probably intend on only playing one or two puzzles a play session, but don’t be surprised if you’re either stuck on one for hours or slowly making your way through one after another. Crashmo is a brilliant puzzle game, full of unique mechanics and a slew of puzzles that will have you coming back for more, as long as you can deal with the demanding difficulty from the start.