Push, by Ian Snyder (Valo, Captain Dan vs Zombie Plan), is a retro-looking new platform game with a twist. Actually, not just a twist, but a full-fledged indian burn. Oh, the controls are simple enough — use the [arrow] keys or [WASD] to run and jump on platforms, hold the jump key to stick to ceilings with your flat sticky head, click on the screen with your mouse cursor to warp the very molecules of space around a powerful force anomaly. But the twist is that you can... oh wait, that was it. The physics-warping anomaly thing IS the twist. And it changes everything.
Your goal on each level is to get your heroic cubey-leggy-thing to the sun. Like practically every pre-16-bit platform game, the levels in Push are made of tiles, locked at first into the traditional grid where tiles live out their blocky lives. When you hold the mouse button, though, a circle expands from the cursor, forcing the tiles to the perimeter and thus creating new gaps and platforms. Everything can be subverted and bullied — blocks, hazards, even the sunny goal that ends the level. Only brick tiles are immune, and many levels use those immutable bricks as a welcome source of structure and sanity, so you can't just splatter the landscape all over tarnation like a whimsical demigod.
Another nod to sanity is the fact that tiles will creep back home after they leave your (literal) sphere of influence. The chaos is limited to a small area, where your keyboard hand and mouse hand work in tandem to succeed. I can even imagine playing this with two players, one on movement and the other on Reality Shred. Just be prepared to die a lot.
Analysis: Actually, be prepared to die anyway. The controls in this game are super-touchy, and because the collision detection is trying to cope with the constant pressure of strange events, it can feel glitchy at times. Make friends with the little comic-book-bubble Squish that appears when homecoming tiles trap your hero, because you'll be seeing a lot of it. And learn to enjoy falling into the void.
So, the concept for this is flat-out brilliant, and the presentation comes right from the center of the current indie games ideal. Large-pixelled charm and subtle emotional tones, with a killer soundtrack if you're into melancholy electronic whooping (which I am). The biggest problem is in the level design. Like all the games at BonusLevel, Push rests on a foundation of user-created levels, and that means even the offical levelset is repetitive and often too hard. The gradual introduction of challenges that would come with a tuned Story or Adventure Mode is a gaping hole in the center of this game about gaping holes.
I would love to see the level progression match up with the game design, but Push is exciting and inventive enough that everybody should at least peek at it. The first time you click the mouse, it will expand your mind.
You can also Play Push at the Casual Collective who sponsored the game.You can play a whole different set of user-created levels there!