Push Me Pull You would deeply disturb me if it wasn’t so damn fun. The premise is simple enough. It’s a competitive multiplayer game where – for most modes – you try to keep a ball on your side of a giant circle until it fills with your color. Okay yeah, it sounds fascinating, I know. But in the vein of such games like QWOP or Octodad, the real fun of Push Me Pull You comes from its ridiculous characters and how you control them. Luckily, where games like Octodad can feel a bit unruly, Push Me Pull You is much more direct and responsive. Though it’s easy to mix up your right and left, I never found myself having a hard time playing. And now, after hours and hours of pushing and pulling, my significant other is getting sick of me asking her for “just one more game.”
So what makes Push Me Pull You so entertaining? Well, the ridiculous characters I just mentioned are actually really strange, conjoined humanoids. They’ll either make you think of your happy childhood in the form of Nickelodeon’s Catdog cartoon, or make you squirm a bit in discomfort as you think of the disturbing horror flick, The Human Centipede. Watching these legless Siamese twins crawl around, wrapping their worm-like body around the game ball while the competing players are trying to wiggle their way into possession is oddly as entertaining as it is strange. With its very cute and flat art style though, Push Me Pull You is incredibly warm and inviting. Despite its weirdness, you’ll feel compelled to at least give it a try. I’ve never seen or played a game like this before and I’m extremely happy the developer, House House, has given the world Push Me Pull You.
I’ve only played with two players so far which means each player controls two heads with the right and left joystick. You can also play with four people and have each person controlling a head. Short on controllers? The setup actually allows for a pretty easy experience where two players can use one controller and I don’t doubt this absurd setup for such an absurd game would be absurdly fun. I’ve played enough Sportsfriends to know that! And speaking of Sportsfriends, if you played that multiplayer indie collection from 2014, Push Me Pull You will instantly give off the same vibe with its flat, colorful art style, playful soundtrack, and engaging gameplay. It really would’ve fit right in with the rest of the Sportsfriends.
Push Me Pull You thrives in its simplicity. You control the two heads of these worm-people and use your body to maneuver a ball onto your side of the field. Whichever side the ball falls on will begin to fill with that team’s color and whomever can fill their side of the circle first, wins. The only additional form of depth comes from shortening and extending your body with the shoulder buttons. You’ll move quicker when you’re short, but you’ll lose out on the range that comes with being long. But being long also gives your opponent a lot more room to push your body away from the ball. In the thick of the action, the game becomes a sort of mix between tug-o-war and wrestling, with each player trying to shove the other away and grab the ball for themselves. One of my favorite tactics involves shrinking myself as short as I can, making it much easier to wiggle inside an opponent’s grip, and then extending myself quickly in hopes of breaking their grip. It looks really messed up and thanks to the sound effects, it sounds really strange but like the rest of the game, it’s oh so very pleasing.
If you get tired of the main game, there are a handful of variant modes you can choose from to mix things up, some more fun than others. One mode puts three balls on the court meaning that if you have two balls on your side and your opponent has one, both sides of the circle will fill up but yours will fill up faster. Another mode I enjoyed was called “Sleepy Time” and that simply puts one head to sleep, meaning you have to drag your other end around with you and focus a lot more on the extending mechanics. Surprisingly, this mode felt the most different while still keeping the essence of the game intact. There’s another mode that requires you to bring the ball outside of the circle and then back to the center to score a point. This mode, on the other hand, felt different in a way that just didn’t work to the strengths of Push Me Pull You. There’s a couple more modes too but they don’t need to much explaining. As they are labeled, they’re “variants” to the main game, not extravagant departures.
I only wish there was a little more to the game. Even with the variant modes, the overall package feels a bit slim. This is a local multiplayer experience through and through. That means there is no online mode, no A.I., and no single-player experience. This isn’t a huge deal to me considering I have a few people that will definitely be on board to play a few rounds with me but other people might not have that luxury. Hell, I would love to be able to play online in a party chat with my buddy in Tulsa, OK and though it probably won’t have the same feeling as playing in the same room, I know we’d both have a blast. I think back to Sportsfriends again where I had the same feeling, but at least that was a collection of games that gave players something different to try if they grew tired of their favorite game. Push Me Pull You is awesome, but I worry there’s just not enough there that will keep bringing me back in the next few months. There are definitely some hidden things within the game shown from the trophy list, and I’m having fun discovering some of those little things but I do wish there was a little more here.
Push Me Pull You is your next great party game. Whip it out at your next gathering and I guarantee you’ll have a crowd of people gathering around the TV in delightful absurdity. Just looking at these figures curl and twist around each other, fighting for control on a lone ball is intriguing in its own right but playing is even more fun thanks to its simple, yet sometimes disorienting (strangely I mean that in a good way) controls. Once the party’s over, challenge your rivals in some more intimate variant modes to find out the real champion or try your best to uncover the game’s secrets. Just know that there’s not much else to do beyond that core experience of Siamese-twin-worm-folk-wrestling-tug-o-war. I, for one, am okay with that.