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Critical Reception: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems' Pushmo

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Intelligent Systems' 3DS puzzler Pushmo, which reviewers describe as "the best downloadable game Nintendo's ever offered in any format."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Intelligent Systems' 3DS puzzler Pushmo, which reviewers describe as "the best downloadable game Nintendo's ever offered in any format." Pushmo currently earns a score of 90 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. IGN's Lucas Thomas scores Pushmo at 9.5 out of 10. "In addition to offering true winners in physical packaged games and on-board applications, Nintendo's at last brought us an exclusive download-only eShop title that is an absolute must-have game," he asserts. Thomas continues: "Developed by Intelligent Systems -- the same brilliant minds most commonly known for their work on the Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Paper Mario and WarioWare franchises -- Pushmo is a beautifully original, absolutely charming and oftentimes devious little portable puzzler." Thomas describes Pushmo's gameplay: "Each Pushmo is a stack of colorful blocks, and Mallo must push, pull and leap across the tops of each individual block in each puzzle to be able to reach the spot at the top where a boxed-in child is waiting to be saved." This setup proves rewarding. "Pushing and jumping are all that you've really got to work with -- and it's incredible how that limited array of maneuvers can form the foundation for hundreds of different brainteasers," Thomas praises. "Even the simplest-looking stack of blocks can become a true head-scratcher, and it feels truly satisfying to finally figure out and clear a level that's had you stumped." "The arrival of Pushmo demands that all owners of Nintendo's newest handheld stand up and pay attention to the company's newest download shop, as it's an absolute must-have game," Thomas summarizes. "The first-party killer app the eShop has needed is here -- and beyond even the 3DS, this may very well be the best downloadable game Nintendo's ever offered in any format." Jeffrey Matulef at Eurogamer rates Pushmo at 9 out of 10. "Nintendo's been on a roll lately with the new entries in its beloved Mario, Zelda, and Mario Kart franchises," he begins. "Yet even the most dyed-in-the-wool fan will admit concern that the company keeps drawing from the same well. So it should come as a surprise that Nintendo's best first-party original title in years is premiering as a budget release on the 3DS' fledgling eShop." "Astute players will breeze through the first couple hours with ease, but levels grow extraordinarily complex later on," Matulef assures. "In true Mario fashion, colour-coded pipes act as portals, and switches affect blocks elsewhere. While later stages really test your spatial awareness and outside-the-box thinking (or is it inside the box, in this case?), a series of smart decisions make it more joyful than intimidating." Convenient undo features maintain the flow of gameplay, Matulef notes: "There's a handy rewind feature that allows you to fix any recent mistakes. If that doesn't do the trick, there's a button on the ground that instantly resets the level to its natural, flat phase. No pausing or reloading necessary. Most stages can be completed quickly once you know what you're doing, so retracing one's steps is less frustrating than it sounds." "In many ways, [Pushmo] is Nintendo's answer to Portal," Matulef observes. "Both are budget puzzlers released to little fanfare that exhibit the finest qualities of their respective developers. Sliding blocks around may not have the kinetic energy of Mario or the exploratory nature of Zelda, but it maintains the playfulness and intricate craftsmanship that's made other Nintendo series so revered." Edge Magazine gives Pushmo an 8 out of 10. "Intelligent Systems’ 3DS debut is a spatial puzzler built from stacks of colourful, retractable shapes that’s both ingeniously simple and engagingly malleable," the reviewer praises. Edge takes issue with an unnecessarily lengthy tutorial stage. However: "Once the ponderous introduction is behind you, [Pushmo] makes up for lost time fast, with each new stage revealing another manoeuvre for you to use, or throwing a fresh obstacle in your path. Clever level design keeps things moving, and the stacks you’re faced with grow in size and complexity, but proceedings get intriguing with the introduction of special blocks featuring a manhole that enables you to warp between positions, and a switch that pulls out any blox of a specific colour." "It’s a game where you often have to go backwards to move forwards, and at its hardest it feels like a series of feisty little programming challenges as you nip up and down changing the landscape incrementally, each pass taking you a little closer to your target," Edge notes. "Beneath the pastel shades and the perky muzak loops, it could all be rather clinical, in fact, but one of the game’s smartest ideas is to layer analogue platforming onto its digital puzzles." "Intelligent Systems hasn’t crafted the most obvious type of system seller, then, but it has displayed signs of the kind of thinking that’s helped define Nintendo’s previous portables," Edge concludes. "Economical and clever, [Pushmo] is full of leftfield ideas that turn odd congregations of technology into quiet magic. At last, 3DS has a puzzle game with real depth."

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