When Pushmo was released last December it seemed to signal a change in the quality of digital games that were landing on Nintendo platforms. The eShop release was an addictive action puzzler that won the hearts of critics and fans, and it is still one of the highest rated games on the 3DS. Helping Mallo solve the puzzles in Pushmo was such a rewarding activity that the team at Intelligent Systems tweaked the gameplay a just a bit to create an all-new experience in Crashmo, also for the 3DS.
This time around, instead of searching for children hidden within the blocks, Mallo must save a flock of multicolored birds that he scared away from amazing flying "balloon" (the birds powered the flying part). The birds have all landed high a top a series of Crashmo puzzles that Mallo must scale in order to capture his flying friends and return them to their place on the balloon. Much like Pushmo, Mallo is tasked with manipulating a series of blocks to climb to the top, however, this time around the blocks are smaller and react to gravity. This means that when a block is no longer held in place by another block, it will crash to the ground. Sliding and stacking blocks is at the core of Crashmo's gameplay, and correctly arranging them is key to Mallo's success.
Similar to Pushmo, not all blocks in Crashmo are created equal. Various "gadgets" like floating blocks and manholes are worked into the formula to mix up the gameplay. These additional block types force the player to continually learn new mechanics as the game progresses, increasing the challenge as time goes on. The changing landscape of the game is definitely one of its high points; unfortunately its difficulty is one of its lows.
Pushmo was hard; it was the kind of game that made your brain hurt by the time you put it down. Crashmo is harder. The new mechanics make for new opportunities for the team at Intelligent Systems to push the player to their wits end. On its surface, moving around different blocks doesn’t seem too challenging, but by the end of the first level you'll be spending an inordinate amount of time trying to arrange just three or four blocks to save the birds. That's drastically less blocks than are introduced in later levels. For fans of the original who have conquered that game's assortment of enigmas, this game's challenge shouldn't be a deterrent, but anyone that's looking to just relax with a nice little puzzle game may need to look elsewhere if they don’t want their brain strained.
On the up side, with that challenge come a few breaks. Intelligent Systems have included the same rewind and reset functionality that was included with Pushmo, making it easy to step back in time, or start over completely if you've made any kind of mistakes.
Crashmo also brings over one of the absolute best features of Pushmo – the user generated content. After you work your way through the tutorial, you can take everything that you have learned and create your own Crashmo puzzles, and then share them with your friends (or whomever) using a QR code. Like most other games that allow for players to create core game content, this inclusion means that there is a potentially endless supply of Crashmo levels out there. So, fear not, if you have the will to work your way through the game's story mode, there's always going to be somebody's crazy, new creation out there waiting for you.
Crashmo takes the same basic concept as Pushmo and turns it on its side; instead of pulling out pieces of walls to create a path for Mallo to climb, this time around he has gravity to deal with, and must pull out pieces to stack. It's a slight twist, but it retains the basic gameplay mechanics of Pushmo while layering on a couple more things to think about while playing. It's the right way to do a sequel for a game like this; otherwise "Pushmo 2" would have just been more of the same. If you can stick with it through the brain bending puzzles, Crashmo follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor as one of the best games in the eShop.