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Squishies Review: A Cutesy Puzzler At Its Best When You Let Go

Squishies Review: A Cutesy Puzzler At Its Best When You Let Go

Don’t let Squishies’ plush exterior fool you; this is a challenging PSVR puzzler. The VR debut from Typoman developer Brainseed may not have the immediate ingenuity of the game the team made its name on, but there’s something here for VR fans in search of a challenge.

In Squishies, you use two Move controllers to guide rotund and utterly adorable little critters towards a goal zone, collecting optional crystals along the way. Levels are presented as dioramas that are a joy to explore, trying to find hidden items and secret passages within. Pulling the Move’s triggers will blow air, pushing a Squishy away from them, whilst the Move button will pull it back towards you. It’s a tricky mechanic that requires deep concentration and quick reactions to master, otherwise, you’ll send your pudgy little balls of goo careening off of cliff sides and straight into other perils.

Brainseed’s genius, though, is to allow the player to decide what kind of challenge they want from the game. Each of Squishes’ 100 levels ranks you based on how many of the optional crystals you collect, how many Squishies you get to the goal and how quickly you reach the finish. There’s no fail state and often plenty of checkpoints; you can take as many tries as you like to get to the finish without worrying about starting over, meaning planning and patience will be all you need to see through the entire game. That said, there are a fair amount of lengthy and demanding levels, which will sometimes leave you infuriated. It’s a balance Squishies doesn’t always get right.

Getting all crystals and beating time trials is, however, another story. Even Squishes’ earliest levels are frankly hellishly difficult if you aim for these goals. It’s great that the challenge is there for those that want it but I was more than satisfied aiming for level completion alone. Tight spots and difficulty spikes mean that’s trying enough as it is.

There are some unfortunate hiccups with the controls too. Brainseed has done a pretty good job getting the best out of the Move controllers, allowing you to pull yourself through the world and scale it both up and down with a few button presses, but the nature of Squishes’ reaction-based marble maze means that you’ll sometimes be putting the Move controllers in places that PSVR’s camera will disagree with. Add to that the fact that it’s easy to mix up pushing and pulling on the controller and you’ll have a lot of accidental deaths on your hands. It’s frustrating to have to wrestle with the controls on especially difficult spots, though it’s never game-breakingly bad.

Otherwise, there’s little reason to complain. With those 100 pre-made levels you’re already looking at hours of entertaining content with Squishies, and the campaign makes some welcome twists and turns by introducing new mechanics along the way. It is, quite simply, a very playable puzzler, and something that I was happy to kill time in. If you’re looking for anything deeper than that, this isn’t your game.

Outside of the campaign, there’s also an editor mode that lets you build your own levels and then share them online. You get the basic tools from the off but then more complex mechanics and items are introduced as you encounter them in the campaign. It’s a comprehensive system, though I’m not sure the core gameplay is compelling enough to build up anything other than a small but dedicated community around it.

Squishies may not be some profound realization of what puzzle games can be in VR, but it’s never anything less than entertaining even if that does often dip into frustration. Struggles with the controls aside, it’s a polished and thoughtfully-made experience with plenty of content and a charming world to explore. As far as ticking the boxes goes, it does so quite admirably.

Squishies is available now on PSVR. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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