Pushmo World

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Pushmo World Game Poster Image
Puzzle series' Wii U debut delivers great mind-benders.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about puzzle solving and explore their imaginations in this creative game. Its three-dimensional conundrums encourage users to visualize potential paths to the tops of colorful towers. They'll make these paths by pushing and pulling blocks as they climb, creating stair-like trails up to each puzzle's summit. In addition to solving puzzles, kids can build their own, working to ensure that their towers' constituent elements can be pushed and pulled to create a path to the top. Whether your kids want to solve puzzles or design them, Pushmo World provides plenty of ways for them to exercise their minds and express their creativity.

Positive Messages

This game encourages players to use both reasoning and creative skills. Its 3-D conundrums promote logical thinking, and the puzzle studio lets kids explore their imaginations by creating brainteasers of their own.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mallo's goal is to save kids stranded at the top of playground structures, making him a respectable, nonviolent hero. 

Ease of Play

The basic concept -- pulling out blocks to create vertical steps to the top of a 3-D structure -- is pretty straightforward, and tutorial levels do a good job of acquainting players with the mechanics. Just keep in mind that puzzle difficulty eventually ramps up quite a bit. There's a good chance that later puzzles will leave kids (and grown-ups, for that matter) stumped for long stretches. Happily, players can skip a puzzle whenever they get stuck and move onto the next.  

Violence & Scariness
Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pushmo World is a downloadable block-pushing puzzle game. Players control a kitty decked out in sumo wrestler attire who pulls and pushes stacked blocks to create paths to the tops of play structures, with the goal of rescuing the children stranded there. Nothing about the experience is distasteful or offensive. The puzzles make kids put on their thinking caps, and players get to be creative in the pushmo studio, where they can create mural-like puzzles to share with others.   

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What's it about?

Once available only for Nintendo 3DS as Pushmo, Intelligent Systems' popular puzzle game series is now on Wii U with PUSHMO WORLD. This bigger-screen version sticks very close to the formula established by its handheld predecessors: A red cat named Mallo -- dressed, as usual, in sumo-wrestler attire -- sets out to save kids trapped atop towering playground structures called pushmo. He pushes and pulls colorful blocks in and out of these towers to create paths to their summits. The mechanics remain the same: Mallo can tug blocks only so far before teetering off the edge of the block he's standing on, forcing him to stop. But he also can grab blocks by the side to shake them out over ledges -- providing he has space to sidestep. "Gadgets" that appear in later puzzles allow him to teleport around towers and slide in or out all blocks of a particular color. The pushmo studio mode returns as well, providing kids with an outlet to express their creativity as they design and share their own pushmo puzzles.

Is it any good?

Pushmo World's bizarre narrative setup concerning a sumo-wrestling kitty saving kids trapped in a playground doesn't make a lick of sense, but that matters little once you get into the pushmo groove. The puzzles do a terrific job of making players feel clever. You'll frequently get stuck for long minutes before a lightbulb suddenly goes off and illuminates your next move, opening a whole new batch of possibilities. This confers a strong feeling of satisfaction; you'll feel as though you just accomplished something that required serious thought and mental effort -- which, of course, you did.

This particular entry in the series suffers a little from a sense of sameness, keeping very close to the path forged by its predecessors without introducing much in the way of new features or mechanics. But there are a couple of areas in which it delivers quantifiable improvements on the Pushmo formula, most notably when it comes to creating and sharing your own puzzles. Designing puzzles using the GamePad screen -- which is a fair bit larger than a cramped 3DS display -- is much more enticing. Plus, players now can share their creations online and get feedback from other players. This is a huge step up over previous games, which forced players to create, capture, and distribute QR codes for each of their custom puzzles. And, even if you don't want to create your own puzzles, you can still access those made by other players, which means an almost limitless supply of pushmo puzzles to keep you playing once you've finished those crafted by the game's designers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the process of creating puzzles such as those in Pushmo World. In what ways do you think differently when creating conundrums as opposed to solving them? Do you think spending time creating puzzles might make you a better puzzle solver?

  • Discuss online safety. What would you do if you encountered someone online who was taunting you or your friends? What steps, if any, might you take beyond simply blocking them or quitting the game you were playing? 

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For kids who love puzzles

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