The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Last year’s Pushmo offered a simple and effective puzzle mechanic similar to pushing and pulling drawers. In Intelligent Systems’ direct sequel, Crashmo, the developer adds several entertaining new mechanics while keeping the feel of the original intact.
The core change is Mallo’s new ability to slide structures from side to side in addition to the classic push and pull moves. Instead of manipulating a structure locked into the ground, you can move the whole thing around. Higher blocks fall down if you remove their support, which either gives you something to climb on or ruins the whole puzzle. As in Pushmo, you can do a Braid-style rewind to reverse these mistakes or just hop on the reset button if things are too far gone. To accommodate this more involved system, you can pan the camera around the playfield and zoom in and out with a quick tap of the d-pad. It feels like you always get the exact view you need for a given situation.
This new format allows the designers a lot more flexibility in creating puzzle layouts, but they’ve added several gadgets on top of that. New tools include a door teleporter, cloud blocks that float without support, and switches that allow Mallow to move blocks by hopping on them instead of pushing. These mechanics all get their time to shine and offer a unique spice to the gameplay once you get used to the current gimmick.
The flow of stages starts with introducing the basic concepts, then devotes an entire world to each gadget, and ends with super-challenging stages that blend everything together. This new format keeps things fresh by always introducing something new and incrementally upping the challenge to ultimately terrifying heights. Fortunately, you can skip any level that’s giving you trouble any time you want instead of waiting for a timer to run out like before.
Further smoothing out the flow of the game is a new training area designed for the express purpose of teaching more complicated puzzle setups. This thins the main campaign down to a lean and mean 100 levels while offering 90 simpler instructional stages off to the side. In many ways, they’re just as good as the main puzzles. The only difference is that you go for a flag instead of rescuing a bird, and you can watch the puzzle solution if you get stuck. The later prototype zone offers another 10 puzzles featuring blocks more than one cube deep, as well as impressive 3D objects. If that’s not enough for you, the robust level editor returns, allowing easy online sharing through QR codes. Unfortunately, Nintendo is once again relying on fans to create their own sites and message boards instead of providing a central online hub for players to share their labors.
Crashmo improves on Pushmo’s formula in every way, but I have a nebulous complaint: For some reason Crashmo doesn’t inspire that “just one more” desire in me that I expect in puzzle games. The dry and straightforward dismantling of one puzzle after the next leaves me satisfied after finishing about a dozen. When I return after a break it’s always fun again, but I’m not losing any sleep playing it. This is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but it keeps Crashmo out of the puzzle hall of fame.