So far, GameOn has made its name on DSiWare with simple games executed well. Box Pusher does nothing to buck that trend, offering a gaming experience that manages to be both vast and shallow, but what this game lacks in personality it easily makes up for with its strong and clever central conceit.
Box Pusher, for those of you who haven't gathered from the title, is a game about pushing boxes. Technically there is more than one character who engages in pushing boxes so it should probably be called Box Pushers, but let's not pick nits.
Each level has you pushing boxes from their starting points to target areas, and here's where the game gets interesting: the boxes can end up in any of several target areas, meaning you're likely to need a lot of trial and error before you find out exactly what needs to be done in any given stage to get them there. This could have been woefully confusing, but instead the game is just clever enough to keep you guessing, and never cruel enough to frustrate you needlessly.
At the end of each level you will be ranked from one to five stars, which is based on the number of steps you took to complete the level, not the amount of time that has elapsed. This emphasises brain work over speed, and it's a great fit for players whose minds are more nimble than their fingers. There is also a rewind mechanism, similar to the one found in Pullblox, which lets you retrace your steps and try out different methods of solving the puzzle. This is a welcome feature, believe us...it got a lot of use!
You might be wondering a bit why we haven't talked about the game's story, but that's because it doesn't have one. GameOn, true to the name of their company, doesn't waste time justifying the bizarre compulsion of their titular box pushers...they just want to get to the fun.
This, unfortunately, is where the game seems to miss a trick. A plot may not be necessary, per se, but some sort of connection to their characters, or knowledge of their motivations, would have made the game a bit more engaging. As it is, your characters remain nameless, and they might as well be cursors. In fact, the game's manual dismissively refers to them as "pawns". Think of how Mario would feel if he was referred to in such a way!
The lack of personality behind the gameplay fortunately stays put, and doesn't trickle down to the visual presentation or the music. Visually, the game is impressively varied. The large number of levels span several different tile sets, and none of them are unclear or wear our their welcome. For every five stages you complete you'll unlock another batch of five, and just when you're getting tired of the visuals there's a brand new tile set on the horizon.
Musically, the game is superb. The background tracks are always pleasant and are periodically gorgeous, with soothing, meandering tunes to keep you company all through the game. Whatever our concerns about the limitations of the gameplay, we genuinely couldn't have asked for a better soundtrack.
The real question for prospective gamers is how much patience they will have for a game that revolves entirely around pushing boxes, without any special items or enemies to keep them on their toes or to radically alter gameplay. We don't see this as a problem — though we do feel compelled to point it out — but if anybody is let down by this game, it's likely not because they disliked it, but rather because it became dull.
A multiplayer feature aims to keep things fresh, with a level editor allowing you to challenge your friends to ever more devious box pushing puzzles, but, again, with an absence of game-changing items, the levels are likely going to feel pretty similar after a while, however cruel your intentions.
It's a bit limited in scope, but Box Pusher is definitely fun. A generous amount of levels, a great soundtrack and an intuitive level editor all come together to elevate this one from the crowd. Our only real caution is that the excitement of shoving boxes around is likely to wear off well before you've made it to the end of the game. For those looking for quick, clever puzzles on the go, you could certainly do much worse.