Push Me Pull You Is Utter Terror Attached To Insane Delight

By Nathan Grayson on March 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

The first thing I remember from Push Me Pull You isn’t even the game itself. It’s laughter. I’d heard about it all week during GDC, and I finally witnessed people playing it projected on a ceiling at the Unwinnable House. They couldn’t stop giggling. It came in bone-shivering writhes and ribcage-pounding bursts. Upon witnessing the game itself and noting that the whole thing was centered around wriggly sausage tubes with people for ends, I immediately felt two things: 1) revulsion, 2) the truest love I’ve known in all my life.

And then I played it.

Push Me Pull You is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so silly.

It’s actually a four-player game, with two players controlling each, um, thing. The goal is simple: to drag a ball to your side of the court and keep it there long enough to score a point. But it is much, much more difficult than it seems, because people.

Inevitably, partners disagree on where exactly their frantically clambering centipede wiener dog abomination should end up, so everybody gets tangled in a hurry. And then the real fun begins. Pushing. Pulling. Shoving. Encircling one body with your own and constricting in a manner that’s halfway between giant killer snake and giant killer hug.

I honestly, unironically adore the fact that this is a game about friendship. I mean, read this advice from developer House House: “Love each other, work together, communicate and coordinate, and prove that a good friendship can overcome anything (unless you find yourself up against an even better friendship!)” That’s just so warm and nice, like I imagine being crushed and having all my bones broken by an ever-sloughing sports monster would be.

Strategies emerge quickly, especially if you’re playing with a partner who’s on your same wavelength. Maybe you shrink your body down to be quick and nimble – cannon-balling into your hyper-extended opponents’ paper-thin abdomens and dragging them away – or maybe you become as large and unwieldy as possible to serve as an obstacle for both the other team and the ball. Maybe you move in a perfect “U” formation, catch the ball, and then extend at the same time to slingshot it to your side of the court.

And all the while, you shout. You shout a lot, because communication is pretty important when one half of your body is somebody else. “No, that way! No, I meant the other one! Curl counter-clockwise! Argh, you are the worst Catdog.”

Push Me Pull You is a very simple, goofy game, but it isn’t stupid. There is an elegance in its simplicity, and yes I did just use the word “elegant” to describe a game about conjoined man-snakes grinding each other into sweaty flesh piles. It all makes a strange sort of almost immediately intuitive sense. You pick up a controller, move a bit, and – bam – it all kinda sinks in. Like, instinctively. Maybe there’s a little (wo)manaconda in all of us, somewhere. But the core of this game really does, in theory, have the local multiplayer-centric appeal of a Nidhogg or a Towerfall, or perhaps even something in the Sportsfriends collection - just, you know, with even more laughter.

(And oh goodness, the way their little arms move. It’s so creepy crawly, yet weirdly believable at the same time. If these things were real, I think that’s actually how they’d move. The arms humanize them. Or whatever-on-planet-Wormulon-XII-they-are-izes them, anyway. And when they get dragged away, it’s just so… I don’t even know. Cute, I guess. Like a listless puppy dog being tugged along on its leash. That is also a tube monster. I can’t wait to try and explain this game to people in real life.)

Push Me Pull You is, then, this massive rubbery skin pile of contradictions. Grotesque yet adorable, simple yet complex, smart yet dumb as a little kid’s smile. Also, let’s face it, slightly sexy. There’s only one way to play it right now (and that’s not even available to the public yet), but I can’t wait to see what else developer House House does with the concept.

Lasting appeal will be the real challenge here. The basic mode is great fun on its own, but it’s not like House House could just stitch online multiplayer into this thing’s rubbery DNA and call it a day. Push Me Pull You would lose so much of what makes it special without the face-to-face element (not to mention with an added helping of lag). Lasting value will, hypothetically speaking, come in the form of modes, more outlandish arenas, and perhaps even custom rulesets.

It’s a brilliant little concept as is, but I’m interested to see how far House House can stretch it – if they even decide that’s the right direction to take it in at all. There is something to be said for purity, even if a lot of people these days seem to think it’s, “What? That’s it? I want my [very little money in the grand scheme of things] back!” It is, however, possible to demand too much from a game. It’s possible to stretch it too far. Is Push Me Pull You that kind of game? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Push Me Pull You will be out sometime in 2014. I’m writhing, wriggling, and growing a face from my backside in anticipation.

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37 Comments »

  1. MrThingy says:

    Human Centipede – The Game

    D:

    • The Random One says:

      If those GIFs are any indication, the game makes Human Centipede look like Gremlins. It’s so weird to see something that looks human acting so… catdoggishly.

  2. Kefren says:

    (Beaten to it, alternatively-worded joke removed, please move on, nothing to see Ma’am.)

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    corinoco says:

    Woah, very very bad cheese dreams there.

  4. Mr. Mister says:

    Looks like a Mario Party minigame.

  5. Prolar Bear says:

    This is terrifying.

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    psepho says:

    My god, this is too creepy for words.

    There is a short story by Borges about a man who visits a house where all the furniture is warped and twisted to accommodate the strange form of the unseen inhabitant. I think I now know what lived in the house…

    • Adam Smith says:

      This weekend, at Rezzed, Alice took one look and thought – ‘BORGEZZED more like.”

      ALICE! TELL EVERYONE ABOUT BORGES AND REZZED.

    • xaphoo says:

      What’s the name of this Borges story? I thought I’d read all of Borges but I don’t remember this.

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    Philopoemen says:

    I think I’m more horrified that Nathan finds this “slightly sexy”.

  8. wu wei says:

    This looks like Noby Noby Boy recast as a wrestling game.

  9. Synesthesia says:

    This looks awesome! I want it for my couch steam thingie. I wonder if someone would break whatever NDA there is and explain or hint what type of controller this uses. Why wouldnt two (or even one) analog sticks do the trick?

  10. Caiman says:

    Waiting for the Horace mod.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Heretical! Displaying both ends at once would require a representation of Horace which would be quite visibly finite.

      • Fenix says:

        Nah, easily fixable by having the middle of the Horace model have a “…” part.

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          JB says:

          No, LionsPhil is right. To even suggest that Horace has an end is heretical. (Yes, he has a head. But that is a beginning, not an end.) So there cannot be a “middle” part.

          LionsPhil flirts with heresy himself by using the term “both ends”, but we’ll probably let it slide this time.

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            This!
            All heretics must BURN!

          • mr.black says:

            I think it could pass, but only if one would always bother to slowly and carefully explain to anyone two heads are in fact not the beginning and end of Horace, but different manifestations of the beginning. And the end/connecting point would be somewhere off screen. But then you would have different sort of game than this one..

            W..? Oh, yeah, Praise be Horace the Magnificent, etc.,etc.!

      • Sleepymatt says:

        Even more easily fixed by letting the Horace DLC get stuck at a perpetual “1% downloaded” ad infinitum as the heretic’s computer realises the futility of attempting to simulate his unendingness.

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        phuzz says:

        But it’s a 2d representation, there’s nothing to show how far they extend in the z axis. Horace could be infinite in one (or more) dimension, whilst finite in others.

      • Lemming says:

        You could have a writhing black hole at the center of this visual representation of Horace. To gaze upon his true size would drive one mad.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        The universe is simply Horace who stuck his butt up his head. Doughnut-shaped and infinite.

  11. flashlight_eyes says:

    Are the controls simple enough that this could just be played off one keyboard, or would i need 4 usb controllers?

  12. KevinLew says:

    For those that don’t know, this game is definitely inspired by Doctor Dolittle. He had an animal friend called a “pushmi-pullyu”, a weird four-legged creature with a head on both ends of its body.

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      Jackablade says:

      With that in mind, this game really should have a dancing level.

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    Tinus says:

    This doesn’t *need* lasting appeal. It can just be what it is, and that is fine. :)

  14. aldrenean says:

    “Push Me Pull You would lose so much of what makes it special without the face-to-face element”

    Can journalists please stop telling us how we enjoy our games? I refuse to accept that any multiplayer game besides B.U.T.T.O.N (and anything that follows in its mold of actual meatspace interaction) suffers significantly from being played online over VOIP instead of in the same room. The lag argument holds much more water and is actually relevant to independently produced games, though whenever possible it is great to see online multiplayer added (here’s looking at you, Towerfall). Nidhogg proved that even if lag degrades the experience, it in no way ruins it.

    • sinister agent says:

      But he’s right. There are games that are just not as good if you’re not all in the same room.

      ie: all of them.

      • Philotic Symmetrist says:

        And on a related note (although not to this game), Mario Kart (and many other games) have proven that even if splitscreen degrades the experience, it in no way ruins it either.

  15. MrUnimport says:

    In general I am all for .gifs in articles but please oh god why did it have to be this one

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    fupjack says:

    “Argh, you are the worst Catdog” is one of my favorite review sentences ever.

  17. mr.black says:

    I had the “problem” of small native pinkish lizards with big cute black eyes get into my apartment and crawl over my white walls during hot summer nights and I find this gif very very disturbing (maybe) because of that!