Push-Cars [$0.99 / HD] is a puzzle game with a conscience. Like a pint-sized version of Pixar's Cars, you've got a bunch of anthropomorphic cars to handle. There's the eco-friendly ones like Sparky, the slow but green electric, and there's the gas guzzlers like Sixteen. Your job is to smash those gas guzzlers to bits while helping the others slip out of town.
It's not a complicated job. You're presented with a overhead city block, stylized and designed from real maps of American cities. The cars are positioned on the road, and all you can do is tap to rotate them. They can only go straight, and will drive until they hit something. Once you find a solution that will let the good cars escape and smash the bad cars into each other, a building or a dead end, hit the gas and it all plays out.
It sounds pretty straightforward (and maybe a touch heavy-handed), but in practice it's a lot of fun. The early puzzles are simple, but as more cars are introduced there are more elements to handle. The cars travel at different speeds, so lining them up to intersect each others paths can be tricky. Some can take off-road routes, others can leap over a single car or crush opposition beneath them. By the time you've met all the cars, you'll be faced with some major challenges. Even physics come in to play on some levels.
And that's just the first half of the game. Push-Cars includes 90 levels (all of which can be unlocked by playing through them, or you can pay to unlock them all). The first 45 take you across the country, visiting landmarks in New York, Vegas, San Fransisco and more. Once you make it through those levels, you head back to the start. There you'll find new levels that mix all the game's cars in on repeated maps. The difficulty curve isn't always consistent, but you'll find the later levels increasingly more challenging.
If the difficulty is too much, there's an in-game hint system that will show you the correct positioning of two of your incorrectly positioned cars. This is a big help, but there's a catch - the game only gives you and handful of hints to start, and rewards a few more throughout the game. Need more help? You can buy a pack of 10 hints for a buck. I might be dating myself here, but this gave me flashbacks to those old 1-900 video game tip lines. On the other hand, every puzzle is solvable without hints, and there's no downside to taking a trial-and-error approach, so I can't say this bothers me much.
Push-Cars' stylized maps add a lot of charm. You get a sense of looking down at the actual cities, but they fit in nicely with the game's cartoonish art. There are a few less-charming features. I wasn't big on the game's music, and toggled it off pretty quickly. It has a rather unique theme that's got to be an acquired taste. The menus are also unnecessarily complicated. Finally, on small devices it can be a challenge to tap buttons or cars that are too close to one another.
That's just the small stuff, though. On the whole, I'm quite happy with Push-Cars. I've still got a few Game Center achievements to pick up, but I'm rocking the leaderboards and I've devoured the puzzles. They're just the right mix of sadistic and fair. The developer's taking feedback on our forums if you have an opinion to share, and a lot of our users seem happy with the game so far. So why not give it a ride?