Review copy provided by Resistance Studio.
Pushy and Pully in Blockland is a 2d sprite game developed and published by Resistance Studio. It has a strong retro aesthetic and the gameplay clearly is a tribute to some of the most classic games like Bomberman or Don’t Pull. It is the story of two characters who crash on a strange planet called Blockland where their spaceship parts are stolen by some strange creatures. In order to recover them, you have to complete levels by defeating the enemies. You do this by pushing blocks of different types against them. There are a few extra elements, like boss battles, matching 3 blocks of the same type to get power-ups and the possibility to play co-operatively with another player local or remotely by using Steam’s Remote Play feature.
With the basics down, let’s check the accessibility of the title. I played on PC using a keyboard.
The first thing you will see when you run the game is a classic launcher window. Here you can select the resolution, enable the windowed mode and adjust the graphics quality. This last setting doesn’t seem to do anything, and the Inputs can’t be remapped here. That is not a problem at all as we will see later. This launcher’s main objective is to give the player the option to use windowed mode as that allows you to play using your on-screen keyboard, necessary for many people.
The menus are navigated using the default keys until we remap then, then those will work here too which is something I liked. Mouse driven menus or the ability to remap on launcher too would help. The only exception is the Controls screen where moving the cursor is done via the arrow keys, no matter what we remap the keys to.
Once in the main menu, we can go to settings by selecting the cogwheel. Here we can change the game language between English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
The speaker icon gives access to separate volume sliders for music and sound effects. There is no voice acting so there is no need for subtitles. All story elements are narrated via vignette-style drawings.
Finally, we reach the controls section, clearly indicated by a gamepad icon. Here we can remap the keys and gamepad buttons or assign the controllers to each player. Remapping works well, you can even assign up to two different keys for each input, but the method is a bit clunky.
You select the action and press Enter, then you choose Replace and just press the key/button you want to use. While this is all okay, there is a time limit of five seconds to press the key. This is something that I have seen in other games, and recommend dropping as people with different disabilities from low mobility to cognitive may have issues with it.
To go back in menus you must press Escape or Control, again a generalized practice that is not accessible for a lot of players due to the placement of this keys. Having a Back input to remap would be ideal.
The rest of the options show us the unlocked achievements, the leaderboards and the last icon is to exit the game.
The game consists of levels of a one-screen size, with blocks acting as walls to create a labyrinth. You have to clear the stage of enemies by pushing blocks and hitting them.
These blocks have different shapes inscribed, like bomb, diamonds, stars… When you combine three or more blocks of the same type in a vertical or horizontal line the blocks combine into a powerup. For example, the bomb blocks create a bomb you can push and it will explode killing all enemies in a close area. This mechanic adds variety and in some cases is a key element to beat some levels. The enemies offer a good variety of abilities and looks, requiring some thought to avoid and clear them.
Every 10 levels you must beat a final boss, bigger and tougher, and while the general method is to hit them multiple times with blocks they offer a good balance of fun and challenge. You have a limited amount of time to clear each level, and failing to do so will cause a really annoying UFO to appear that will chase you and destroy you with a beam of energy.
You have 3 lives and after that, you can continue as many times as you want. Be advised that to continue you must press the Enter key, the same one you have to use to Pause.
Once you beat a boss your progress is saved and you advance to the next zone, with new graphics and enemies.
You can then go back to previous zones and select what stage to replay to get better scores, get a higher ranking or just for fun.
Okay, with all that explained let’s look at the controls. These are the default keys but as I mentioned before they all can be remapped.
- To move you use four directions. By default these keys are WASD.
- To push a block you just face in the direction you want to push it towards and press the Push key, Control or whatever you prefer.
And that is all. These retro games have really simple controls, which is great. No complex combinations, holds or timings, a good point in terms of accessibility.
This game can be quite fun, and the art style and mechanics are like going back to a time when games were more simple but not easier. If you played the old Bomberman or Snowbros you will feel an instant connection, almost nostalgia. The two-player mode is a must-try, as it is in that mode that the game truly shines and not just for entertainment.
The time limit is a bit of a problem, especially when playing alone, making some stages feel impossible until you figure out there is always more than a way to complete the levels. This is also why the two-player mode feels not just funnier but better as it mitigates the rush in some levels. Having a mode with more time or no time limit would definitively help, although you can always Pause to take a break and think. This where another issue comes into play, the hardcoded Enter key needed to pause. The Escape key to go back in menus should be remappable too. In the Game Over / Continue screen this is even more important, and I strongly recommend at least having a message indicating that key is needed to continue, as pressing the Push key will make the countdown go faster instead. The fact that progress is only saved after beating a Boss can make some runs feel long, and I would recommend having at least the option to save after every two levels to let people continue the game later due to time constraints.
On the positive side the controls are very simple and friendly, with remapping for both keyboard and controller buttons ( controllers buttons only can be remapped on PC ). Also the possibility to play using on-screen keyboard thanks to windowed mode and the mouse cursor being free is a very welcomed option. Playing like this is a must for many so this makes the game more inclusive.
All in all Pushy and Pully in Blockland is a game that needs a couple of little improvements for low mobility gamers, but if the issues mentioned don’t represent a barrier for you, it offers a good amount of old-fashioned fun.
Antonio I. Martinez has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 and has been a gamer for most of his life. His background formation in computer programming and English compose his basic skill set. Previously the mobility editor for Can I Play That, now works in this new project to help other fellow gamers and contribute to spread accessibility. You can contact him on Twitter at @Black1976