Nintendo has shown surprising commitment to its 3DS eShop, tasking some of its top developers to create new downloadable treats for the service. One of the strongest was Pushmo, a clever 3D puzzler from Intelligent Systems (Paper Mario, Fire Emblem). Now its sequel, Crashmo, has arrived on the handheld and it expands on the original’s strengths, though that increased complexity has its drawbacks.
You play as Mallo, a young man dressed like a sumo wrestler who's tasked with collecting dozens of lost birds. His feathered friends have all perched themselves on top of Crashmos, the 3D block puzzles unique to his world. Using a mix of physics and logic, you move around the blocks to create a path to the top, letting gravity pull the masses to the ground in different patterns. It’s simple fun at first, but things gets complicated fairly quickly.
Nintendo’s traditional approach to gameplay services Crashmo well, introducing players to a few basic moves and then challenging you to find countless new uses for those abilities. Limiting your options to pushing, pulling, and jumping keeps a tight focus on the treasure trove of 3D puzzles before you. It all looks great, thanks to the impressive use of all three dimensions, both in the colorful graphics and puzzle design. It makes Pushmo’s enthralling gameplay seem flat by comparison.
That minimalism might cause some players to underestimate Crashmo, making the tougher sections harder to deal with. After dispensing a number of tips at the start, players are dropped into puzzle after deceptively simple-looking puzzle that--with common sense, trial and error, luck, or a combination of all three--you can eventually overcome. For some players, even the second of the more than 10 collections of puzzles will be stumpers, but thankfully you can skip any puzzle without penalty and move onto the next in the large collection brain teasers.
Crashmo has many tools to prevent players from feeling stuck, yet the challenge still gives way to frustration more often than it should. Figuring out the multiple angles of 3D space can get pretty perplexing--which ultimately makes the satisfaction of eventually solving a tough puzzle all the sweeter, but will still push away some gamers. For those suffering players, it’s worth remembering that Crashmo is best when played sporadically, making those inevitable frustrations easier to deal with in five-minute chunks. When Crashmo is revisited at your leisure--instead of obsessively playing until you somehow force a breakthrough--strategies and solutions reveal themselves much quicker.
The difficulty may escalate faster than you’d prefer, but Crashmo is still an absorbing diversion for your 3DS. Like the best downloadables, it can be played for 10 minutes or two hours, satisfying players no matter how much they choose to invest. If you can push past the annoyances that infrequently pop up, you’ll find that classic style of simple Nintendo fun, only in a more compact form.