Published on May 16th, 2012 | by Adam Vjestica1
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
eShop Till You Drop
After the relatively mixed success of the Nintendo’s Wii Wiiware store (maybe it was the tongue twister name that let it down?), many 3DS adopters had their doubts as to whether Nintendo would be able to successfully provide compelling downloadable games for their latest handheld device.
At the time of the 3DS’s release, cheap and satisfying games had already flooded the market thanks to Apple’s App store: a distribution platform which redefined the ideals of what a modern-day video game should cost. Gone were the common pricey sums of £39.99. Instead, astonishing value of 59p price tags and even free games allowed a wider audience to participate in a once expensive pastime.
Needless to say, the pressure was on Nintendo to adapt. They had to deliver their signature brand of excellence, combined with an enticing price point reflective of the mobile market shift. And, after Nintendo’s President Saturo Iwata’s speech at GDC 2011, it wasn’t looking good.
Iwata stated that he feared the very notion of the gaming industry was “dividing in a way that threatens the continued employment of us who make games.” He went on to add, “is maintaining high value games a top priority, or not?”
Cleary, Nintendo did not share the same adoration for cheap mobile games as the rest of the world. Although Iwata later acknowledged that he might have accidentally offended mobile games developers – which was never his true intention – he definitely had a point.
The paradigm shift of what previously constituted as a fair price point for a game left a lot of unanswered questions. Did consumers care about high value products anymore? Had the market really been divided into those who wanted a higher quality product and were willing to pay the premium, with those who were content with a more stripped down product for a cheaper price? Either way, striking a balance would be the key for Nintendo.
I visited the 3DS’s eShop for the first time in a while and, to my surprise, I noticed that I had some left over funds in my wallet. As I perused the influx of new content, I stubbornly resisted the urge to download yet another virtual classic and instead, was determined to purchase a new downloadable IP from the “Big N”. And that’s when I discovered Pullblox.
Now, for most companies, such a conundrum would require a certain element of trial and error; but this is Nintendo we’re talking about and predictably, they’ve performed the perfect balancing act with their very first try. Their debut first-party game on the eShop, Pullblox, is a downloadable delight.
First of all, let’s address the first stumbling block that Nintendo had to face: the price. Available for the sum of £5.20, Pullblox comes with an attractive price point which fits nicely into the digital distribution model already found on the eShop. Yes, naturally, the eShop’s pricing structure is still noticeably more expensive than that found on Apple’s App store; however, the game’s quality more then justifies the slight increase in cost.
Pullblox has all the typical cutesy charm that we’ve come to expect from a Nintendo game over the years. From the menus, to the characters, there’s a childish sense of wonder as you’re introduced to the mechanics of a fiendishly clever puzzle game.
As with the majority of puzzle games, the initial idea is deceptively simple at first. The player must pull and push puzzle blocks around to create platforms and steps to reach the top.
Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children!?
The game takes place at Pullblox Park; a health and safety inspector’s nightmare. Essentially, the kids of Pullblox are free to play on imposing structures which, if reset, will trap them inside until they are pried free. Terrifying stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.
Pullblox Park is run by old Papa Blox: the man responsible for ensuring each child can play in relative safety. Unfortunately for Papa Blox, age has eventually got the better of him, and whilst rearranging a particular block, the old coot puts his back out. To make matters worse, a cheeky no-good kid is jumping on all the reset switches, trapping innocent kids in the educational, yet lethal puzzle structures for what must seem like an eternity. And that’s where our puzzle protagonist Mallo comes in.
Meet Mallo: a plump little fella modeled on a Japanese sumo wrestler. He wears marigold gloves and even a striking blue mawashi. Before you start each puzzle, he even begins with a shiko (that stomp thing Sumo wrestlers do). Simply put, he’s absolutely adorable and in my opinion, a viable candidate for the next Super Smash Bros game. Sumo based abilities anyone?
Help The Elderly
Mallo is tasked with pushing and the pulling the blocks in a specific way to create a stairway to the helpless child. As I alluded to earlier, at first, you’ll be thinking, “Too easy, I’m the master of this game!” only to quickly declare, “How the hell do I get up there?! Curse this impossible game!”
Mallo can push and pull each block a maximum of three steps forward from its original plane. The twist comes in the fact Mallo can only pull or push each block while standing in front of the block or by standing to the side of it. These rules form the foundations that will test your brain to its limits.
The game has a rewind feature, granting you the ability of returning to a previous state of satisfaction. Mallo can also jump on the reset button, quickly returning the structure back to its original compact form. Pullblox also graciously lets you skip difficult levels with the option of returning to them at a later date. A rating system is also in place, rewarding your block moving efficiency after each completed puzzle.
With over 250 cunning levels to complete, Pullblox provides plenty of bang for your buck, including a much welcomed level editor. Players can create their own ingenious creations to share with the world, with each designed level cleverly saved as QR codes. Creators can post the codes on the Internet, print them out or photograph them for others to scan with their 3DS’ camera.
Push It To The Limit
Summary: Cute, fun and an excellent all-round puzzle game, Pullblox will have you pulling your hair out in bemusement, then fist pumping the air with glee a moment later. It’s highly unlikely that Nintendo will ever get planning permission to build a real-life Pullblox Park; however, with Pullblox, the eShop finally has a game with real pulling power.