Push Me Pull You is a throwback.

Game review: Push Me Pull You brings back joy of playing games alongside a friend

With almost all multiplayer games having gone the online route, this simplistic ‘local multiplayer’ game is a throwback to 1980s and early ’90s gaming

Push Me Pull You

House House

4 stars

Remember how much fun it used to be to head to your rich buddy’s house, slap on some double-teamed Contra-style console action and spend a precious few post-school, pre-dinner hours blasting away? I’m not saying kids these days aren’t enjoying themselves, lost in their photorealistic first-person battle zones, but where’s the fun in playing alongside some random via headset? What happened to shoulder-to-shoulder thrills?

Rare is the game that offers what’s now laughably referred to as “local multiplayer” – and when one comes along, even if it’s filled with minor flaws, it’s still cause for celebration. That’s the case with Push Me Pull You, a mostly cutesy, slightly horrific indie game available for the PC, Mac, Linux and PS4.

Designed in a simple, streamlined cartoonish style, gamers control a literal human centipede – a Chinese finger trap-like anthropoid creature as you push and pull balls around a basic court. It’s sort of like old mobile phone game Snake meets a top-down basketball simulator, where everyone’s slithering their way to jostle for the ball at the same time – except not quite.

Part of the appeal is the audio-visual world created here: a simplistic animation setting that hides a gross-out world underneath. Each spurt of growth sees your body morph in the manner of the creature from The Thing and players will hear sloshing, slopping sound effects that wouldn’t be out of place in a survival horror game. But more than that, is just how damn easy it is to fall into Push’s world.

Like many a mini-multiplayer favourite, the game is quick to pick up but difficult to master. Your shrinking-growing tube-like freak isn’t just a gimmick, and it takes great skill to know when to go compact to steal a ball, or to super-size yourself before scoring. And best of all is what we call the buddy quotient – the local multiplayer, where the game goes from entertaining to an absolutely addictive fast-paced thrill ride.

Push Me Pull You isn’t going to break the mould – and really, it isn’t trying to. It’s a small, fun game that’s best absorbed alongside a few other familiar faces sitting next to you. To the casual gamer, that might sound obvious for an appealing release, but you’d be surprised how ignorant and greedy modern big-game developers can be.