One easy way to confuse the average gamer is to start talking about how much you’re enjoying the block puzzles in the game you’re currently playing. The inclusion of block puzzles in games that don’t have a focus on them have been a thorn in gamers’ thumbs for at least a decade or two. All too often they require very little thought, and way too much tedious pushing. Enter Crashmo. Crashmo is a downloadable title for 3DS that takes the bane of all that is fun, and focuses its attention entirely on pushing blocks around; and somehow it’s actually quite entertaining.
System: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo (Intelligent Systems)
Release Date: Dec. 8th, 2012
ESRB: E for Everyone
The object of Crashmo is to get to the top of a block where a flag has been placed. The reason that’s been put in place for you doing this is that an old man’s birds have escaped, and naturally they’ve perched themselves atop blocks that are each a part of a bite-sized puzzle. Pushing one block can also push others that are in the way. Sometimes just figuring out how to position yourself to push a block in a certain direction can be challenging. Other times you may have to set up a block so that you push one, and then land on top of another. At times you’ll have to use the shapes of the blocks to your advantage; using one block to push some in one direction, while avoiding others. Things can get quite complicated.
Crashmo is a puzzle game that has its own rules; you’ll have to throw a bit of logic out the window. Particularly, Crashmo pays almost no attention to real-world physics. If there are two blocks, one stacked on top of the other, and you push the bottom block forward, the laws of real-world physics would require that the top block stay perched atop the bottom block, and both would move forward together. This isn’t so in Crashmo. In Crashmo, the bottom block will move forward, and the top block will not move forward but will fall instead. On top of that, you will often have blocks stacked on top of each other in ways that would normally be impossible.
Figuring out the little nuances of Crashmo’s controls and rules is something that you’ll do throughout the game. Thankfully, the game’s levels are given to you in chunks of ten. Each chapter of the game starts off with easier levels that teach you a few new tricks. Then the difficulty is slowly increased with each new level. After a chapter is completed, this cycle repeats. However, it never gets old.
Below you’ll find a graphic that I put together to help you get a better understanding of how puzzles work in this game. In case it’s a little confusing, in picture number 4, I used the larger block to push the two L-shaped blocks to the left.
Aside from the tiny nuances of learning how to push blocks around–trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds–Crashmo introduces a few gameplay alterations along the way. Cloud blocks can be pushed around horizontally, but will never change their vertical positioning. They can be used to hold up chunks of blocks while lower ones are removed for other uses. An arrow can appear on a block, and jumping on it will push that block in the direction of the arrow (which means you don’t need to be next to the block to move it). Ladders and doors allow players to move around the area in new interesting ways, and the doors in particular offer up some great challenges.
One level, “Challenge S-9″, only had four blocks, four doors, and one of the blocks had an arrow on it. I (eventually) figured out that I would have to get on top of the blocks, and somehow manipulate them without touching the ground again until the puzzle was completely solved. It reminded me of a childhood game that I played in which the ground was “lava”, and I had to use couch cushions to get across the room safely. Though Crashmo’s version is undoubtedly more difficult and taxing on the brain. Throughout my time with Crashmo, I was always amazed by how many variations on pushing blocks they were able to jam into the levels. Rarely did I feel like I was solving a puzzle in a way that was all too similar to another level.
Though it’s a simple game, I can’t help but to applaud the fine attention to detail in certain circumstances. The game will let you fall off of a block that is on the ground level, but getting close to the edge of a block that’s one space or higher off the ground will send your character into an “I’m about to fall off a cliff” type of animation to prevent you from falling off. This, in conjunction with the “rewind time” feature, really helps to prevent needless frustration. The camera allows you to pan in and out, and with the flick of the d-pad, you can see a puzzle from four different sides. There’s even a zoom feature that lets you look around the puzzle up close. All of these features help to create a smooth gameplay experience so that players can focus solely on the gameplay itself.
One major bonus is that Crashmo allows users to create their own levels, and then share them via JPEG images online. All you have to do is point at a QR code, and that puzzle will instantly be transferred to your 3DS.
Really, the only negative thing I can leverage against Crashmo is that the background never changes. It has a simple, cartoon-like appearance, and it’s animated, but why isn’t there at least a palette change (Fall, Spring etc.)? The positive outlook on this is that, really, you probably won’t be paying much attention to the background anyway, as you’ll be too absorbed in the dastardly difficult pushing and pulling of blocks.
Crashmo is a game that gets straight to the puzzles; you won’t be doing excessive amounts of boring pushing to get to the “real” puzzle. Most puzzles don’t even have very many pieces to worry about, as there are often only three to five blocks to think about. That said, don’t expect these puzzles to be easy; they’re not. I was stumped a few times, even on one that had only three pieces. If you love puzzle games, Crashmo should definitely be in your collection. Just don’t expect it to be anything more than a puzzle game.