Pushcat on PC
Block-pushing. It’s one of the oldest, simplest forms of game out there, with roots stretching back to the very foundation of electronic gaming. Pushcat is yet another entry in this storied genre, with some unique twists and elements that make it feel at home in the modern market. Still free of complex trappings and loaded with brain-bending puzzles, it presents an easy to play, but difficult to master equilibrium that’s the hallmark of any worthwhile puzzle game. But what’s so special about this indie gem that it deserves a look from veteran gamers?
Pushcat, like most block-pushing puzzle games, puts forth a simple premise and goal. In this case, players are tasked with pushing gems together to create lines of three — or more — which then transform into coins. These coins are the real meat of your goal in each level. Collecting enough of these will allow you to exit the level and move on. In most cases, a higher goal will also allow you to earn a star for the level, giving you a sense of accomplishment and emotional fulfilment. Typically, your only enemy is yourself; failing to be cautious will result in trapping the intrepid feline, forcing you to exit or restart the level.
In addition to the gems that are your primary source of coins, Pushcat offers a variety of blocks and other elements to keep things interesting. Dirt that can be dug to create paths makes up a lot of the space in early levels, while latter puzzles will focus on crystals, bomb-like circuit constructs, and more. The mix of different blocks that you’ll have to work with help to keep things interesting, and time-sensitive levels will keep the pace moving if you have any hope of succeeding. Coins are subject to pushing and falling, as well, meaning you’ll want to be sure you don’t force them into unreachable areas.
What Pushcat does well, it does very well. The variety and level design are top-notch for any indie puzzler, and the supporting chiptune soundtrack is a great addition. Unfortunately, some less than responsive controls can bog the experience down, and it’s frustrating having to replay a level after a single misstep taken between victory and the loftier star requirements. Still, since restarting isn’t a difficult affair and most of the puzzles are pretty simple once you’ve sorted out the trick, it doesn’t hold up play too badly.
All told, Pushcat presents a very well-polished design and some rather creative, outside-the-box puzzles that can keep the play interesting even without mechanical complexity. With a random element to each level making each attempt a little bit different, there’s more than enough here to justify the $4.99 price on Steam ($3.99 on Desura). While I wouldn’t say it’s breaking new ground or creating anything that’s wholly unique, the fresh take on one of gaming’s most storied genres is something I always enjoy. For puzzle game fans out there, I’d recommend at least giving the free demo — available through Desura — a shot.