Pushcat is a quirky puzzle game by the UK-based indie development company Zut for the PC platform. You play the titular feline, negotiating obstacles and pushing matching colored gems into sequences of three to turn them into coins. Collect a certain number of coins and you can exit the level via a cat flap unlocking more levels. Collect a higher amount of coins to earn a star, collect enough stars and you unlock the next world. It’s basically a Boulder Dash /Bejeweled mashup that works surprisingly well.
The game defies the prevailing design simplicity of the many puzzlers out there, inviting you to revel in its chaotically busy (and sometimes sublime) level design, offering towering cascades of multicolored gems. That is not to say there is no focus or structure to the levels, but their size often makes too much forward thinking impossible. There is also a sprinkling of more concise, and often rather clever, puzzles to help break up the repetitive play. Along with “boss” type levels at the end of each world, these variations make for a consistent and ever-changing challenge.
The introductory world highlights the importance of applying a little forethought to your actions, as blindly rushing in can be a sure fire way to feline doom. Through clever play you can stack the odds strongly in your favor and it’s in the devising of these strategies, as much as the chaotic risk taking, that makes the game such fun to play. The levels all have a descriptive and gently amusing name, helping to add further character to them. Each level is subtly different every time you play. While based around a strong design template, the blocks change position slightly and the gem colors vary, making replays that much more interesting.
The mix of Boulder Dash and Bejeweled may appear slightly odd at first, with seemingly incompatible play mechanics. But by changing and adapting some of the fundamental rules of each (i.e falling rocks won’t kill you, but gravity will prevent you pushing gems up) it really makes the mix work. Each additional world furthers the puzzle dynamic, introducing bomb blocks, breakable ice blocks, rainbow blocks, multiplying slime and troublesome ghosts. All of these new additions are well introduced via a couple of introductory stages and provide increasingly refreshing challenges.
The sound effects in the game are fine, I found the music pleasant at first but its loops quickly got grating – it changes with each world but I played with it turned off. However, after I threw on some of my own music I was soon in a zen state of concentration. The pixel art graphics are lovely and, whilst I wish there were a few more HUD elements to display the number of rocks and gems left, there is precious little to complain about. I did miss the change world option though (its at the bottom of the screen in the level select stages), as I’d more instinctively moved the level select highlighter to the left, trying to get back to previous worlds in order to back pedal and pick up some easier stars. However, I only noticed it after I completed the game.
Overall Pushcat is, as is much indie treasure, a charmingly-hewn, multifaceted pleasure. I’ve not had my Boulder Dash fix for many years and this was a pleasant experience, one, even on my completion that I have returned to. I can’t be much fairer than that.
You can play the demo or buy the game, directly from Zut, for 5 UK pounds, 6 Euros or 8 Dollars here.
This games was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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