Crashmo Into Me

Confession: I have never played the original Pushmo. For those who hopped onto Nintendo’s current handheld in its early days, Pushmo ended up being a much-talked-about downloadable game that charmed and entertained many. For me, however, my ticket aboard the 3DS Express didn’t come until some time after the game’s release—and, by that point, I had enough catching up to do that I had plenty to entertain me before even considering the system’s downloadable offerings.

As I was quite familiar with the concept of the game and the positive reactions it was receiving, I legitimately intended to give Pushmo a go. Of course, then it happened: Nintendo announced that Intelligent Systems had crafted a sequel titled Pushmo. So, it was time to make a decision: commit to playing Pushmo before touching its follow-up—and thus have two games in my backlog instead of one—or decide that I’d take this opportunity to play Crashmo now and consider its older sibling a lost cause.

And here I am.

The basic concept here is the same as it was in Pushmo: Mallo—a strange little red creature that Wikipedia tells me is a “sumo-wrestling cat”—must rescue something in each presented stage. This time around, that goal is the recapturing of a flock of birds. See, one day, Mallo was visiting his friend old Papa Blox, when a girl comes flying in in a “balloon.” This girl is Poppy—Papa Blox’s grandniece—and what at first looks like a hot-air balloon is actually a basket carried by a wide assortment of fowl. Mallo—in typical male fashion—wants to show off for this cute girl he’s just met, so he displays for her his patented sumo stomp. Unfortunately, upon doing so, Poppy’s flock of birds scatter, and Mallo must then set out to get them all back so Poppy can return home.

Luckily, the birds haven’t completely scattered to the winds. Instead, it seems that they’re attracted to the giant creations known as Crashmo that Papa Blox is obsessed with tolling away on, and now atop each is perched one of Poppy’s pets. Getting up to each bird won’t be easy—or else, you know, we wouldn’t have much of a game, now would we?

While I haven’t played Pushmo, I know the concept: push and pull pieces of the designs that Papa Blox has built into and out until you’ve found the right combination of what goes where to create a traversable path up to the goal. Here is where the biggest change from Pushmo to Crashmo comes in; now, the puzzles fully exist in three dimensions. It’s no longer simply a case of pushing pieces into or pulling them out from the main background layer; pieces can move independent of the overall Crashmo design, moving left, right, forward, or backward. As well, the camera has now been changed to one that can focus on the stage from any angle, all controllable via the 3DS’ D-pad.

 Because of this freedom of piece movement, another new concept is introduced: If a piece no longer has any other support pieces below it, it’ll drop until another piece—or the ground—stops it. Think of it almost as a big wall of Tetris blocks, where you can pull one out, move it around, climb it to pull another piece out, and strategically build steps up to the awaiting bird above.

In the very early stages of Crashmo, I was enjoying the concept—but I was also starting to get afraid that that concept wouldn’t hold up for the entirety of the game. Thankfully, it isn’t long before additional twists are introduced, such as manholes and doors that can transport you from one location to another, or tiles that’ll automatically move the blocks they’re placed on when Mallo steps on them. What’s nice is that these additions help give depth to Crashmo’s puzzles without making the overall ideas presented in the game too complex. It’s a nice balance—one that reminds me of similar puzzles games I’ve played ranging as far back as the 8-bit era.

There’s another element to Crashmo that brings to mind those other classic puzzle games: real difficulty. What seems like a simple concept—moving around blocks—can provide for some incredibly complex and brain-bending solutions at times, and that challenge isn’t shy about showing up early in the game. Having a Crashmo with only three pieces to manipulate seems like it should be a simple task, but it never seemed to fail that the moment I started to get cocky in my skills, I’d run into a new puzzle that I’d be ready to tear my hair out over.

 To my surprise, one of my favorite pieces of Crashmo wasn’t the game’s storyline-infused puzzle campaign—it’s the built-in puzzle editor, Crashmo Studio. Here, you can try your hand at crafting puzzles—and, as you’ll quickly find, making puzzles that are both challenging yet completable is far, far harder than it looks. (Figure that out, however, and a soothing sense of satisfaction will wash over you.) Created puzzles can be swapped via friends or other players online via QR codes, so once you’ve completed every puzzle the game comes bundled with, you won’t be without new Crashmos to solve.

I waked away from Crashmo with only one real complaint: This game is chatty. There’s a wonderful simplicity to what Intelligent Systems has designed here, and Crashmo could easily have allowed players to try—and discover—all of its facets on their own, while then providing a bit of explanatory help if requested. Instead, every time a new concept, item, or situation shows up, Papa Blox talks…and talks…and talks, until he’s sucked all the joy out of discovery. In our current era, games far too often love to provide too much overexplanation and hand-holding—and Crashmo is absolutely guilty of this.

Sure, that aspect of Crashmo frustrated and annoyed me—but it didn’t lessen all of the good that Mallo and gang bring along with them. Though at first seemingly simple, Crashmo blossoms into a puzzle game that presents equal amounts of challenge and charm. Just, be warned: When I say that many of the game’s puzzles can really be difficult to solve, I mean that.


SUMMARY: If you’ve got $8.99 burning a hole in your digital 3DS wallet and you’re looking for something different, Crashmo is a charming adventure that’ll provide your brain plenty of entertainment as it’s tasked with solving—and then creating—a wide array of colorful block-based 3D spatial puzzles.

  • THE GOOD: Isn’t afraid to provide you some real, serious challenge.
  • THE BAD: Papa Blox needs to learn to shut his decrepit trap!
  • THE UGLY: Feeling enough rage at some of Crashmo‘s puzzles that I swear I’m going to transform into EGM reviews editor Ray Carsillo.

SCORE: 8.5

Crashmo is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive.


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About Mollie L Patterson

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Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Find her on Twitter @mollipen.