An identity crisis is something that most people can relate to in some way, shape or form during their lifetime, and of varying degrees too. But with Pushy and Pully in Blockland, this may be the first time I’ve encountered a game to have an identity crisis; it doesn’t really know what it is. A puzzle game perhaps? Maybe a platformer? A match-3 game? Ultimately it is a weird mash-up of all three that somehow adopts all the worst bits of them all and none of the good stuff.
Pushy and Pully are travelling the galaxy, and have just landed on a strange alien planet after their spaceship broke and pieces were scattered everywhere. The planet they land on is called Blockland, and they must travel through 50 levels of block-pushing action to collect their missing spaceship pieces.
Levels are navigated by pushing blocks either into enemies and defeating them, or into other blocks to match three together and be granted another tool to defeat the enemies. Only when the screen is cleared of adversaries will the level be considered complete.
The three types of blocks available are stars, bombs and diamonds. When three are lined up in a row, stars will grant you blocks you can pick up and throw, bombs can affect a larger area and take out multiple rows of enemies, and diamonds offer a significant point boost. If bombs sound familiar then, yes, it’s fair to say Pushy and Pully in Blockland is heavily inspired by Bomberman.
There is both an online and local leaderboard to show off your scores. That’s if the online one loads in; it rarely does.
You are gently coaxed into believing this will be an easy game with the first couple of levels not proving to be much of a challenge. Suddenly though, there is a difficulty spike unlike anything else; it isn’t difficult because of well-designed platforming levels like Crash Bandicoot did so well, and instead it’s rage-inducing because it bombards the screen with excessive enemy placement. Couple this with the random movements of most enemies and many times you will have died before the level has really begun due to being a bit unlucky. As a puzzle game, luck should not be a factor.
The difficulty spikes are so varied and all over the place that I even found the last area to be the easiest overall.
Another way you are led to believe this is an easier game than the norm is found in the cutesy graphics. Easily the best aspect of Pushy and Pully, the art style harks back to the early 2000’s, bringing back memories of Kuru Kuru Kururin, Point Blank and Advance Wars to name but a few.
There is a single player option present but the emphasis of Pushy and Pully is on cooperative multiplayer. Co-op makes Pushy and Pully more bearable; two heads are always better than one, but maybe not when there’s this much shouting and swearing going on when a misplaced block ruins a level. The levels are identical in single player as they are in multiplayer, so things do get easier when playing as a duo.
The 50 levels are split across five different areas in Blockland. The eighth level in each world is a genuine puzzle level that tries to shake things up a bit; some work better than others but the effort is appreciated. The tenth and final level of each area is a boss, where there is a distinct lack of imagination. Save for the later bosses having one or two extra attacks, these all play out identically but are far easier than some of the regular levels.
If all this wasn’t enough, the controls are pretty poor and unreliable as well. Pushy and Pully works on a grid-based system, meaning every step forward moves you to the next grid square. However, whereas you would expect pressing any other direction would simply cause your character to face that way, even a gentle tap will move you in the direction by one square. If there happens to be an enemy – or in later levels a pit trap – there then it’s game over. This is a constant source of frustration because Pushy and Pully is a very fiddly game at the best of times, and this only compounds that.
If it wasn’t obvious by now, Pushy and Pully is a difficult game, further reflected by the achievements. There are 32 in total and are detailed in a separate screen from the main menu that does a good job of showing you how close you are to unlocking them. Each level after completion is graded out of three stars, and there are achievements for getting three stars on every level in each world. Most of the time, simply completing a level is a challenge in itself, and there aren’t any specific objectives for explaining how to get all three stars. Easily the most difficult achievement though is called Untouchable: Complete the game without losing any lives. Nigh impossible I say.
Pushy and Pully in Blockland on the Xbox One is simply one of those games that should be avoided at all costs. Repetitive, fiddly and not sure what sort of game it is, the only thing enjoyable about it is the art style. But even then, all it did was make me long to play those older games again rather than have to sit through any more of this. It’s not really a puzzle game, it’s not really a platformer, it’s just an unfortunately bad game.