Pushmo is a puzzle game in the vain of titles such as ChuChu Rocket! or Picross 3D in that it features an uncomplicated interface which is flexible enough to be translated into hundreds of different puzzles. Also like ChuChu Rocket and Picross 3-D, Pushmo encourages players to get in on the creativity, and allows for data sharing.
Pushmo is designed around stacks of blocks that are initially flat against the background, but which can and must be pulled forward or pushed back into the background with the goal of building 3-D platforming-based structures to reach a goal, usually placed at the top of a structure. The game can be thought of as a stack of Tetris blocks where players can pull the blocks towards them (the screen) with the goal of creating a 3-D platforming staircase. The blocks can be pulled out up to three levels in depth and the challenge comes from deciphering exactly how to pull and push the blocks in order to create a manageable route to the top.
Besides being able to push and pull the Pushmo blocks, there are also a few modifiers. Switches are present which, when activated, cause all blocks the same color as the switch to be pushed to the maximum depth of three levels. There are also manholes which allow for travel between two locations. Multiple sets of manholes and multiple color switches may be present in a single puzzle. There is also a large reset button on the ground should too many mistakes create a structure that cannot be repaired. For quick mistakes, there is a set amount of time which may be "rewound." For instance, if a player accidentally drops off the top of a Pushmo, but moving up the structure makes climbing it again impossible, the player may hold down the L button to rewind the several seconds which covered the fall. This rewind feature has a limited total use per puzzle.
Storywise, the protagonist is challenged by a trouble-making kid who has collapsed the stacks of Pushmo, and upon doing so, has trapped other children inside the things. The hero, Mallo, is a kindly fellow (somewhat resembling a sumo wrestler in design) and eagerly devotes himself to solving the Pushmo puzzles and freeing the children. Early tutorials are handled by Papa Blox who is the maker of the Pushmo puzzles, the educator offering advice early on, and the narrator giving some clues to the story elements. The main campaign features over 200 puzzles to be solved.
Like ChuChu Rocket and Picross 3-D, players have the ability to craft their own Pushmo with a simple-to-use level builder that allows for puzzles to be drawn with the 3DS stylus. Completed puzzles are saved to the 3DS system's SD card, and once a puzzle has been completed and verified through a play-test, a QR code may be generated for the level and saved as a photo on the SD card to be shared. Sharing puzzles is as simple as copying the picture of the QR code from the SD card to a computer and emailing it or posting it online. The QR codes can then be photographed with the Nintendo 3DS camera and added to the SD card simply by selecting an empty puzzle block in the Pushmo Studio (the editor), and centering the QR code in brackets on the top screen. It does not even need to be photographed, once recognized, it's instantly loaded into the game. The game allows for nearly a hundred downloaded or custom levels, all of which are saved to the SD card. Only personally crafted puzzles may be shared, and players may choose to lock a puzzle so others may use it, but not edit or copy it.