Pushy and Pully in Blockland is a children’s puzzle game, which draws its inspiration from games like Bomberman and Dig Dug. Pushy and Pully in Blockland is also a game about invading sovereign territory, racism and genocide.
Pushy and Pully in Blockland is very much a game for children. It is extremely colourful, the music is chipper, and the characters are adorable. While this describes a lot of modern indie games that aim to be family-friendly, this game strikes me as decidedly aimed at children first and foremost. The game lacks the kind of depth that you would expect of a game trying to appeal to all ages; it has the vibe of a cartoon for toddlers. There is no dialogue, not a word to be found anywhere in the game. There’s a cotton candy element to the game, all fluff but no substance. Not an outright criticism, again I firmly believe this game is aimed at young children, and that’s a noble enough goal.
Gameplay is simple in essence, but there are enough elements brought together to often challenge you. The core mechanic of the game is pushing boxes. Each stage is filled with multi-coloured boxes for you to shove about. Combining three of any colour in a line will get you items like bombs to throw or diamonds for extra points. The purpose of pushing these boxes is to use them as weapons to destroy every living being in the area. Shoving a box sends it flying, and any creature it comes in contact with is crushed between it and whatever surface they collide with. The level ends when you have killed them all, within a time limit for extra fun.
Are we the baddies?
The enemy combatants come in various forms. I should clarify, most aren’t what you would call “combatants”, later enemies are for sure. Early on, the aliens you encounter appear to just be going about their day as normal. It would probably be more accurate to call them civilians. Right, so the early civilians range from green aliens who wander about, wheel-shaped aliens who move faster and will chase the player, and single-eyed aliens who shoot lasers. My best guess is those function as some form of home security in this world. Ineffective, to say the least. As you progress from area to area, you encounter more variants of the local life, and they become noticeably more aggressive. There are creatures that bounce around with a facial expression denoting anger, and maybe grief. Towards the end, as you infiltrate a secure facility, you’re hampered by robot security, and the little green dudes from the early levels now wear armour.
Most enemy types aren’t particularly aggressive; most are downright passive. The wheels and the robots are about the only ones who actively seek to do you harm. Each level ends as I have said with the annihilation of the populace, but should you die and lose all your lives the game over screen shows the player characters surrounded by the aliens, who are laughing — laughing maniacally, maybe? Or just happy that the invaders have finally been stopped and their world is saved.
Never drink and drive
Now would be a good time for some context. The game opens with a short, storyboarded cutscene. We see our titular characters Pully and Pushy; they are travelling through space in their ship when Pushy starts to nod off. Seemingly, she falls asleep at the wheel. As a result, their ship veers into the airspace of a local planet and is summarily fired upon. The two thankfully escape unharmed, safely parachuting down to the surface just in time to witness one of the locals making off with a piece of their ship. Not to judge Pushy and Pully by the laws of another people but were this to happen in something like Star Trek, the locals of this world would be deemed primitive and something to be protected, studied, and certainly not interfered with. These people sought only to defend themselves when a strange craft entered their atmosphere; surely, this is a time for diplomacy. The stolen spacecraft parts are of course an issue, but one that can and should be resolved with words, not weapons. What follows is fifty stages of complete carnage.
Pushy and Pully go on a rampage, slaughtering all in their sight. The goal of each level is not an objective or a destination; only the complete destruction of all living things is the way forward. Through ten levels in each of the five zones do the pair rip and tear until they have retrieved all that was taken from them. They do so with smiles on their faces and cheers when the deed is done because these people mean nothing to them. They do not see worth in the lives of these aliens; they see problems that must be removed. Pushy and Pully are remorseless killing machines and must be stopped before they strike again.
Are you in charge?
Each of the five zones ends in a boss fight; they’re not great. The first boss is the second hardest in the game, only because the final boss is a harder repeat of that first boss. The hitboxes are a bit hard to nail down, so your thrown boxes don’t always hit how you’d think. The bosses are huge, and most of their movements are erratic, which is true of a lot of the regular creatures in the game too. You die in one hit which, when combined with sluggish movement speed, can be incredibly frustrating, especially so with the bosses, who cornered me far too easily in some cases.
There are more than a few random elements across the game, like where the blocks land in boss fights, which I don’t really agree with in what is ostensibly a puzzle game. When you have to repeat a level many times in quick succession, it helps if the moving parts are predictable. They rarely are in this game, couple that with time limits and you have a recipe for a game that all too often feels unfair. I still hold true that this game is aimed at young children, but those poor kids who do play it are going to struggle with a lot of this.
I can think of no better descriptor for the game than candy floss. There is no substance, no depth, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good or isn’t pretty to look at. However, I can’t help but feel like this game would be too hard and frustrating for most young children. Conversely, it doesn’t have much of anything to appeal to anyone over the age of six. In the end, I can’t really recommend the game, and the fact that it depicts the genocide of an entire race with the gleeful candour of the Androids from Dragon Ball Z really doesn’t help.