Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: none
Developer: Intelligent Systems
A big welcome back to Mallo in another summit-reaching baby-saving puzzle game. Take on over 250 brand new puzzles with returning and some new block types. First appearing on the 3DS this franchise was well received. How does this Wii U, download only, version fare?
Anyone familiar with the 3DS version of this game, PullBlox, will be instantly well placed to give their judgment on what to expect in this highly rewarding block-based puzzle game. Individual levels comprise of a collection of colourful blocks, and simple unchanging backgrounds, that need to be manipulated through the main protagonist’s, Mallo, mystical powers of ‘Push’ and ‘Pull’. Push and pull blocks in the correct fashion to reach a goal, normally located at the pinnacle of your climb, and save a child that has been inadvertently trapped within that puzzle. Mallo moves with analogue precision of the Left Stick, and manipulates the blocks with a press and hold of B, and he even jumps with A.
Pullblox’s main menu plays like a very small level select stage in Super Mario 3D World. Mallo can walk around and choose where to play from 6 areas. Pullblox Park is where the main single player campaign takes place. It all starts off fairly easy, and veteran Pullbloxers will have no problem navigating the simple early puzzles. The ‘normal’ blocks that appear in this game can be pulled, or pushed, into 4 different positions, from all the way in, to a 3 blocks depth sticking out, and everything in between. By pulling blocks out it is then possible to jump up onto them, and create some interesting gaps to jump across to help your bid to save all of Pullblox’s encased children. This is where the stereoscopic 3D of the 3DS came in handy. It was so easy to judge a possible gap that allowed a legitimate jump by that very 3D depth. Lacking the stereoscopic 3D on the Wii U would have no doubt been a hinderance to some, but this is adequately rectified by an excellent camera system. Use the Right Analogue Stick to rotate your view around the main screen, click it in and that camera angle is frozen until you choose to change it. Need to plan ahead, press the Right shoulder button to zoom out and see the whole level. Press the Left shoulder button while in View Mode to zoom in and have the ability to move the camera anywhere you need to have a good look at. So, with all those camera abilities I’m a hop, step and a skip away from another level completion. Oh damn, I fell off right at the top and am unable to climb all the way back to the top, how infuriating. Not so, I could hold the Left shoulder button for a handy Rewind feature that will zip you back to the top backwards, or I could hit the Reset switch located at the front of each puzzle and reset it back to its starting position.
The easier puzzles shouldn’t prove too taxing and soon Pullblox throws some familiar, and not so familiar, block types at you. Pullout and Pushback switches allow Mallo to jump on them and blocks of the same colour as the switch are either fully extended out or in. Manholes, and inverted manholes, transport Mallo to another manhole of the same colour. Linked blocks are linked by their colour, pull a red linked block and all red blocks are moved in exactly the same way all over the puzzle. Yin-yang blocks, just like the real life symbol, have a symbiotic and opposite relationship with each other. Push a black Yin-yang block in and the white variant is magically pulled out, and vice versa. The last new block provides us with the most taxing element and frustration, it’s the Timed block. Pull one out and its timer starts, indicated by a green glow, a few seconds later and the green glow flashes and the block will retract all the way in by itself.
Other modes in the game to be looked at are Papa Blox’s house where he’ll explain the extreme basics. A rehash of what you’ll see in the Main Pullblox Park. Pullblox Studio is a design room where by unlocking blocks through playing the Main mode can be used to create your own design masterpieces. Or in my case, ill thought out disasters that are either too easy or can’t be completed. Now if you have more talent than myself you can easily transfer these puzzles to the World Pullblox Fair, or create a QR code to be used in the 3DS version of the game. Some puzzles that include blocks that were not in the original 3DS version will not be permitted, but this is a cool addition nevertheless.
World Pullblox Fair, though, is online. As outstanding as uploading your own puzzles, and downloading some rather impressive ones from Pullblox users all over the World, there are some slight downsides to the whole process. I can’t call up all my friends’ puzzles and see what they’ve done. There is no search ability to look at all the Mario Kart style puzzles, or whatever takes my fancy. You only have 2 options in the user created menu to choose from, and both options only allow the most recently created Pullblox appear selectable. Both Recent and Popular only allow about the 80 most recent user-created Pullblox puzzles to be chosen. A missed opportunity for creating a wonderful friend to friend experience of sharing. However, seeing and playing some of the amazing 8- and 16-bit style graphical homages to computer game’s past characters and games is awesome.
The last mode on offer is the extensive Training mode, and is split into 2 areas. The Training Area is manned by Corin, a cheeky youngster with grand designs of being, one day, the new Papa Blox. It’s Corin who’ll teach you a little beyond the basics with the returning blocks in slightly easier puzzles than you’ll find in Pullblox Park. Mysterious Pullblox continues Corin’s training of you, but focuses on the previously mentioned new block types and what is expected of you from them. Some of the later training mode’s puzzles tax your brain to a sufficient amount to really enjoy this additional content.
Pullblox’s main draw is its simple puzzle mechanics, easy access for beginners, 250 levels with the ability to create and download 100’s more, and a huge, but slowly, ramping difficulty curve. Later puzzles do become extremely large and frustratingly annoying with numerous different block types all integrated into a single puzzle. But even through all the frustration it is very hard not to appreciate Pullblox for what it is, a beautifully coloured flit through a child-like dream of block moving madness. Casual puzzle goers and Pullblox aficionados should not miss the opportunity to re-enter this magical world where Mallo becomes your guide up the stairs/blocks to salvation.
Review by Lee Davies – first appeared on Nintendo: Review