Like with the app stores on phones, the shop on the 3DS is seeing an increase in the number of titles available for digital download. Though nowhere near as numerous on Nintendo’s handheld console, there are still a good selection of games on it than no longer require you to pull on your winter coat, head out to the local games shop and slap thirty quid on the counter for a full-priced box game. Granted, you’re still going to want to do that for the big games such as the recent Mario Kart 7 but you wouldn’t want to do the same for a simple, quick, pick-up game. Famous phone games like Angry Birds would not have had as much success if they cost the same price as Skyward Sword.
One new game to grace the 3DS’ digital shelves is ‘Pullblox’. At £5.40 it’s cheap enough to purchase without thinking about it (especially if you have credit loaded onto your console like me that you’ve forgotten about) and it’s quickly and easily delivered after purchase to your 3DS dashboard. But what’s it about?
Well, I’d seen lots of good things about it online but, to be honest, couldn’t get my head around the concept. But, having experience with other games released during the DSi era that could only be understood when played, but turned out to be really addictive, I took a punt on it.
And now I shall try and explain it to you.
Built for the 3DS, so including some simple but functional glasses-free 3D that aids the game whilst not really showing it off to its full potential, ‘Pullblox’ is a platform-based puzzler. Don’t let the cute, kiddy, Kirby-esque cel-shaded visuals put you off. Beneath the nursery-style setting and cutesy protagonist lies an addictive and tricky concept.
Basically, you are presented with a vertical wall that, as character Mallo, you have to pull out in a variety of ways to rescue a child trapped in it. Yes, you are saving a kid that has been crushed between moving blocks, but let’s gloss over that nightmarish situation for a moment.
This vertical grid is made of coloured sections, some looking like traditional Tetris pieces, others simpler and others more convoluted. Each coloured section can be pulled out independently up to three levels deep to form platforms on which you can stand or jump onto. But there are realistic rules. Sections can only be pulled out up to three times and you can only pull them out if there is room for you to do so, and you can’t pull out a section if you’re standing on it. Your goal is to reach the trapped baby, inevitably at the top of the structure, by pulling out sections, jumping onto these sections, and pulling out other sections that you can now reach. The tricky nature comes from being able to have enough foot-room to pull out other blocks and navigating the map.
If this still seems too confusing imagine you’re a Borrower stood at the base of a chest of drawers trying to get to the chocolate on the top, or whatever it is that Borrowers go for. You can pull the bottom drawer out but cannot reach the others, but you can pull out the middle one if you’re stood on the bottom one, but only as far as not to push you off the bottom drawer.
And that’s basically it. Like all good puzzle games, it’s not the concept that’s difficult, it’s using it to complete the puzzles and, trust me, after ten puzzles where your hand is pretty much held (for too long if I’m honest as I was itching to progress to the normal levels rather than having to touch through screens of exposition) the size and complexity of the pullblox increase and even in the first of ten eight-puzzle ‘worlds’ there are some head-scratchers. Luckily, you do have a reset button on each screen to aid you, plus you can skip levels if you can’t do them when the menu flashes, which happens if you struggle too much.
Otherwise, on a challenge level there doesn’t seem to be much of an imperative to be careful on each level. There’s no penalty or injury for falling from high-up blocks, even when your character makes a song-and-dance of teetering on the edge, and there is no time limit which, out of anything, would increase the tension. Though, perhaps, one will appear in the later levels.
Music-wise the instrumentals that go with the game are inoffensive background ditties designed to accompany the puzzles without becoming console-throwing frustrating, complimenting the childlike-style perfectly.
As well as the main game which, frankly, is very samey among the challenges, so best for short bursts between karting or piloting Star Fox, there is also a simple but comprehensive level creator which you unlock quickly after completing the training levels. With a substantially sized 16 x 16 grid that you can start from scratch on or import any levels you’ve completed so far, plus a range of tools including a pen, paint bucket and eraser, plus ten colours to choose from, creating puzzles is easy and compelling, with the only difficultly being making something that is complex and solveable. The creator also allows you to set where your goal appears and zoom-in and out of the area, and there is space for ninety of your own courses. Already some interesting grids have appeared on the internet, courtesy of the QR codes generated when you save a puzzle that you can then post on the internet for other users to download.
Overall, Pullblox is a simple but challenging concept that belies its kid-friendly graphic and twee music to show iselft as a challenging, if a little repetitive, puzzler that will satisfy any gamer wanting some head-scratching puzzles. The glasses-free 3D is there and offers a sense of depth but never really excels and wouldn’t be missed if this was a DSi release. But the inclusion of a straightforward yet powerful level creator goes even further to make the £5.40 download cost look a bargain.
If you enjoy your puzzle games that you can dip-in and out of, then there’s much to enjoy here that compliments the range of innovative puzzle games on the system. I just wish it wasn’t quite as childish looking, which might put off some of its target audience. If, however, you are wanting this for a young child then the chunky menus and bright, colourful feel will be perfect for them, but I think they will quickly find the game a little too challenging.
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