Crashmo (a.k.a Fallblox)
3DS Download | Nintendo / Intelligent Systems | 1 Player | Out Now | $8.99 / £7.20
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28th January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
In discussing this matter of riddling methodologies, association if often made with mainstream channels, such as crosswords and the like. But this process isn't limited to these methods. No, even some groups of videogames acquire a similar magnetism. Those that are executed magnificently go beyond a base tier and reach to unparalleled heights in their composition. Crashmo is one such game. Having eminence often disguised by understated depth and subtlety, Crashmo is a superior puzzle game that constantly elevates with a "less is more" motto, using this as a method of expansion rather than as an excuse for a lack of creativity. With what result? Timeless gameplay packaged into a framework completely impervious to corrupting influences.
The game stars Mallo, a stubby, crimson-coloured hero who meets Poppy, grandniece to Papa Blox. On her behalf, Mallo sets out to retrieve a collection of birds who have abandoned their post as power sources for the Bird Balloon. Without them, the transport cannot take off again, and so instead of having Poppy cut short her visit to her grandfather's, Mallo takes the initiative to locate all the mischief-makers perched atop tall blocks. Setting the stage for the entire affair is Crashmo Park, wherein players will find 100 puzzles spread across a menu setup that categorizes every batch of ten levels by scope and elements that are newly-added or brought back into the equation at a later point. Each puzzle is arranged in the form of different-sized blocks that are adjacent to, stacked on top of, or encased within one another. The idea is to maneuver layers into positions that Mallo can actually reach, thus functioning as stairs leading to the positioned bird.
Right away, Crashmo is to be praised for constructing a formula that, ahead of its simplicity, won't be seen as rudimentary, for the layering is created as an end to provoke thought and ferment clever combinations. Connected to this is the domineering import of perspective in arriving at solutions -- the R Button is used to change your viewpoint to view the reverse side or the profile of an arrangement. On the outskirts of the grid-defined space you have to work with are handy reset buttons that will return everything to its original state. If you realize during the blossoming of an in-progress solution that you made a critical error, all it takes is a simple rewind with the L Button to retrace your steps over a pretty generous period of time.
They haven't given the player too little tools to work with, and what is more, the idea of failure being crushing when you're so close has been circumvented so nicely through these methods. The entire configuration just clicks, and in this way, attention can be focused entirely on re-working the blocks set before you, instead of feeling anxious over exploring with different possibilities.
The way the game progresses in having more and more demanding puzzle layouts is executed to a tee, with new elements being introduced at a perfect pace. Some of these include floating blocks that stay suspended even when you move other blocks that are seemingly holding them up; switches that will push a relevant block (and potentially any others rubbed against it) in a specified direction; as well as doors and manholes that must be navigated through preemptive efforts, first and foremost. The best aspects about these introductions is not that they are done on a gradual basis, because that's an attitude that most well-designed puzzle games adopt. Rather, it is the increase in harmony that lends to a design structure that is well-channeled and not lost track of through misplaced tangents or directional changes that take place too soon.
Tightened gameplay is at the fore of Crashmo's aspirations, and this is especially demonstrated in the manipulation players are exposed to over the course of the puzzle progression. By this, I do not mean that the core mechanics are altered significantly; instead, that the engagement is so decisive that it excites as you witness it taking a hold of you mentally. Lest you completely confound the situation, it's often best to approach puzzles with a system of working backwards, examining which block could be used for a layer that is one step down from the prize, and going from there. You'll discover, however, that this isn't always a foolproof strategy, judging from the way levels are designed in having one or more stacks that elevate themselves above the often-fixed height of your destination. And this is where the fun comes in: getting you to investigate without feeling hampered in any manner whatsoever.
As if making use of an invisible note feature comparable to a temporary hint in Sudoku, players will catch themselves identifying blocks as being in a position that must be preserved. Other times, it's a case of asking yourself, "What am I missing here?", a feeling often prompted when overthinking a cleverly-disguised step that might only be seen from the back or side (e.g., guiding yourself over to a hole in a wall and using that to slide anything in front of that hole to the left or right). There are even cases where you will find yourself tricked by the puzzle's default setup unless you approach it from a different angle, like, say, using the goal block as weight to push something above your grasp to a spot that can actually be reached in conjunction with other blocks. The sudden realization of options you didn't previously consider naturally gives you hope when you feel restricted in your movement, and it's those spur-of-the-moment glimmers that produce the subdued excitement spoken about earlier.
Overlapping the draw of the mechanics themselves is the peaceful presentation. More than adorable, the atmosphere is hospitable with a strong innocence that proves amazingly welcoming for absolutely anyone, regardless of their tastes. The game even goes so far as to impart positive messages to uplift and keep players moving forward after a trial. The music combines what might seem to clash when you first hear of it, but the electronic jingles against the soothing flute sounds work surprisingly well. Additionally, sound effects are used well to indicate moves made with a result that might be overlooked due to the height at which it occurred. While the 3D usage is more subdued and the world the game presents isn't especially inspiring, Crashmo has conveyed its grace through these elements so effectively that it makes way for relaxation and warmth.
Completing all 100 puzzles is no easy feat on its own, but the game is supported very well with extras that keep you coming back for more. The most notable of these is the level editor found in Crashmo Studio, where you can create your own puzzles, as well as receive creations from friends and official puzzles from Nintendo using QR Codes. For those who have trouble flipping their internal switches, plenty of Tutorial stages are provided that not only teach, but attack some of the twists thrown in later on. I can assure you hours will be spent on the game, with a willingness to sustain your attachment for as long as viably possible.
Crashmo's formula is so well-executed, supported in tandem with a familial atmosphere that is warm and inviting to all. Intelligent Systems is to be praised for unleashing an uncompromising gravitational pull through design that habitually develops with discretion and meaning, instigating decisive planning, encouraging experimentation, and causing changes in perception to flow naturally the more participants get involved. Boasting a unified and an all-around superb package, Crashmo is sheer bliss and certainly deserving of esteem.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 10/10 - Timeless design that cleverly places importance on perspective, introduced elements create harmony, discreet progression
Presentation 8/10 - Highly welcoming with a lot of charm, warm messages similarly uplift players, catchy and effective music, subdued 3D usage
Enjoyment 5/5 - Blissfully relaxing, encouraged experimentation makes for some elusive yet very satisfying solutions, overall graceful execution
Extra Content 5/5 - Hours to spend completing all puzzles, can create your own puzzles and play those created by others, meaningful Tutorial offerings
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System