Zut Games' debut release Pushcat ticks all the boxes for a flash game, or a twitch-play, casual game on a smartphone or handheld. It's adorable, addictive, simple and if you jammed it down onto a tiny phone screen it would still look decent. It would do all right.
But conversely, Pushcat isn't a tablet, or smartphone, or flash game. It's a PC (and Mac) game, and it's the choice of format which pushes it (with a name like Pushcat I'm going to keep on making terrible puns by accident and I apologise for nothing) into the realms of brilliance. There's a feeling of rightness when sitting down in front of a proper screen to play a lovely, well crafted puzzle game like this, like returning to an age where bright and chirpy puzzle games like this would sell in big boxes on the Amiga for the era's equivalent of AAA prices.
The premise of Pushcat is extremely simple. Pushcat likes silver, and putting together three or more gems pops them open to reveal an equal number of silver coins. Collect a set number of coins to open the cat-flap and move to the next level, and a (usually higher but occasionally equal) set number to earn a star as you finish the level. Then lose entire days playing Pushcat and start to lose friends until one day the Crisis Assessment Team are sectioning you because it's been a week and you've not eaten and you're in the streets pushing cars of similar colours together while mewing.
Pushcat is a bit addictive, in the same way that the Sahara Desert is a bit sandy. It's also a sizeable game, and I confess to having not completed it yet. I can, however, attest to the fact that my fiancée, who did sterling work at our recent Play Expo appearance by unlocking tons of the levels before the crowds were allowed in, has lost hours and hours of her life to it - and even she hasn't completed it yet! The complexities of the puzzles ramp up from walks in the park to frantic freak-outs as huge malevolent ghosts do their best to ruin our purple friend's gem-smashing day, all the while soundtracked by a bouncy, cheery score which, for me at least, doesn't become irritating even after hours of play.
Put simply, this game has a lot of soul. There's obvious technical flair evident as well, but Pushcat has something hard to define that makes it a very special game indeed. I wouldn't list puzzle games among my favourite genres, but there's a special quality about Pushcat that has me completely hooked, and I've seen it work its magic on others too!
Maybe it's the simplicity of the whole thing, or the well-tempered difficulty curve that never gets too punishing, or the fact that the protagonist is so damned cute I want to reach into the screen and stroke him, I don't know. Maybe it's the flashbacks it gives me to games like Repton, with all the digging through soil and rocks falling. The important thing is that Pushcat is simply a wonderful game. As I write this I'm getting ready to go on my stag weekend, and if one game other than UFO: Enemy Unknown could stop me in my tracks and keep me sober for an entire weekend it would be Pushcat.
Purchase the game here (direct from the Zut Games website).
When casually asked at Play Expo to "have a go on this and unlock some levels" for RGCD it pretty much unleashed a two week addiction. I honestly cannot get enough of Pushcat. It's easily one of the most fixating games I've played in years, although in all honestly in the last couple of years things (as they do) were getting in the way of my once loved video game time.
It's not enough for me to just unlock the next level, I have to get the star! Even if that means slamming the restart key 27 annoying times for just one freaking level.
Pushcat (and the whole Play Expo Event experience in fact) has reignited my previously dormant passion for gaming; bollocks to the dusting and hoovering, this has given me the push, honestly no pun intended, to get back into playing again.
Ruari's opening couple of paragraphs here are particularly interesting because actually Pushcat *did* in fact start life as a browser-based demo. Intrigued by the boulderdash-meets-match-three description on indiegames.com, after a few plays I was completely awestruck and caught myself asking the question "why has no-one done this before?"
Neither derivative nor merely nostalgic, this deceptively casual looking game is actually a challenging puzzler that features a lot of clever ideas. The demo took me back to the happy days of playing puzzle games like Psygnosis' X-It on my old Amiga 1200 in the 1990's, so I wrote an email to Fritz exclaiming that he was really on to a great game concept with Pushcat and that in my opinion it deserved a full commercial release. It seems that I was one of several who voiced their positive opinions, so I was overjoyed to be added to the beta team and see the game evolve into the brain-straining arcade masterpiece it is today.
The price tag of £5 is ridiculously cheap for this original and genuinely fun game, and quite simply I can't recommend it enough.