Did you know about Pullblox before Nintendo’s 3DS conference in September? No? Well, neither did I. However, that brief snippet of what I saw then was enough to gain my attention and keep my eyes peeled for any slight update on this game. Pullblox looked like the kind of game that would use the 3DS’ 3D capabilities well and being made by Nintendo (Well, Intelligent Systems, who made among other games, the Paper Mario series) I knew that they would know their system better than a third party developer.
I did feel a bit let down with the recently released Freakyforms and the sheer lack of 3D (seriously, I could barely notice it was in 3D). Although the StreetPass functionality and use of QR codes in a downloadable title felt like a nice treat – although I felt that game had something missing and after a few hours the gameplay felt repetitive and I just couldn’t feel like it was worth what I paid for it. That resulted in my initial interest in other download-only titles becoming diluted with a doubt that this game wouldn’t live up to my initial good impression. Both Nintendo-published games have a huge creative aspect to them (With Freakyforms it’s the formies, with Pullblox it’s the levels) and both allow other players to use QR codes to share their creations with their friends and fellow internet denizens. Pullblox doesn’t use StreetPass like Freakyforms does (which is a crying shame). However, in exchange we get a strong use of 3D. How strong is the game’s use of 3D you ask?
The 3D is on a similar scale to Super Mario 3D Land. I know this sounds hard to swallow as Mario is a physical game that is selling for around £35 whereas Pullblox is a downloadable title that costs £5.40, but it’s true. It is Nintendo’s ethos to never have the 3D as a requirement to play a game (thank goodness; because if a jellyfish had stung me 1cm lower a few years ago, I wouldn’t be able to see 3D today), but the 3D certainly is one of the game’s strongest points and I would have found a fair few of the puzzles a lot harder without the added depth. Remember how in Mario the added depth allows you to explore behind pillars and other small niches that would be invisible to you in 2D? Pullblox has that (perhaps even moreso than Super Mario 3D Land due to the puzzle nature of the game).
Pullblox is by no means a short game – there are roughly 180 different puzzles for you to complete which should be enough to rack up the playtime. The most time consuming feature though, is the level creation. I’ve only made two courses of my own at the moment (I’ll post the QR codes at the bottom of this review). First, getting the actual design is pretty difficult, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me. Secondly, you actually have to make the courses playable – this has meant that I’ve had to play around with the large amount of shades we are allocated to try and make different blocks without making the images seem too dissimilar to what they’re supposed to look like. Just that can take a long time, but it has yet to feel like a chore to me – it’s building each part individually and testing each little addition to see if it works or not – a fantastic creative process.
The art-style is typically cutesy as this game was made to primarily appeal to children. The story is also relatively weak (“These children are trapped in blocks – complete these puzzles to save them!”) but these kind of games aren’t really played for their gripping storylines anyway (for example, why does Bowser keep on kidnapping Peach?). The graphics are smoother than what I’ve seen on the 3DS’ predecessor and sharper than the 3DS downloadable titles I’ve played so far (although I’d say that the full retail games are obviously better in that department).
Now, Pullblox isn’t the cheapest game on the Nintendo eShop, costing £5.40. Is it worth that money though? Well personally, I feel that if this game was a full retail title with a price tag of £35, it may have taken me more persuading to buy it, but I would have been just as impressed with it as I am now. So yes, the game is definitely worth £5.40 – and this is the first time I’ve had a 3DS downloadable title that I’ve felt deserved the price (while I’ll enjoyed some of the 3D Classics series, I can’t help but feel that they should be a bit cheaper).
If I had to point out any disappointments I have, the first one would be the lack of StreetPass. Freakyforms uses it well in exchanging formies (which can also be shared via QR Code) so why couldn’t Pullblox use it with the courses? Also, a co-operative multiplayer mode would have been pretty cool – maybe we can hope for a sequel with that as a feature? Imagine trying to figure out a puzzle with a friend – it would have the awesomeness and annoyance of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords all over again!
In conclusion though, Pullblox is definitely the best 3DS-exclusive downloadable title at the moment. With a pricing similar to most of Nintendo’s other 3D downloadable games, I can see that it would be difficult to choose – but choose Pullblox. Seriously.
Final Score: 8.5/10
And now, for the QR Codes I promised:
The second is erm…somehow, supposed to be Yui Hirasawa from the anime and manga K-ON! (I swear it looked more like her before I had to mess with the shades to get the course to be playable!).