Wednesday 22 March 2023

Sokobos Review (Steam)


By Thomas G.J. Sharpe

 I’ve now expanded my vocabulary on a genre inglenook that I didn’t know anything about. Admittedly, I probably know little about Sokoban, and its multitudinous progeny, as puzzlers boil my spleen. Sokobos is a mythic Greek iteration of Sokoban, which in its traditional incarnation was themed around warehouse logistics. Not in a Wilmot’s Warehouse hoarding-organising way, but in a space-limited sequencing way. You’ve to move items around an area in certain sequences to get them to the desired location, be it a crate on a dot or (in the case of Sokobos) Grecian architectural components in the manner that pleases the Olympian sex-pest himself, Zeus.

Most Sokoban puzzles can be stripped down to the simple format of shove item in right order, but various mutations have appeared in the genre since it’s first incarnations. A reasonable assumption is that the inspiration for Sokoban would be a sliding or tile puzzle, but changing properties of items is something that extends the formula from it’s non-digital roots. Sokobos has colour-changin’, water-crossin’, far-travellin’, and even tellin’ a story, while its all going on. This is a neat package that is bigger than it appears, challenging (I own that I am terrible at these sorts of games), and feels satisfying. Most significantly, the feel of moving Aeschylus (your character) around has more connection than a casual-retro puzzler it may appear. There are some fun feedbacks with screen shakes, effective audio, and a great soundtrack. The writing is strange, bleak, and poignant. I don’t know how the story ends (as I do not have the abilities to finish this), but the use of a classic Greek tragedian as the protagonist gives some idea of the tone of Sokobos. I got sort of connected to the world and it’s dream-like, void-y atmosphere. There is almost the shards of threat, or something sinister wrapping everything together.

For dedicated puzzle fans, this could be either just too familiar or just the ticket, I’m not sure. Not being a frequent visitor of the pushing-blocks around scene, there was enough to keep me engaged, but was too frustrating for me to last. I’ve looked longingly at games like Escape Goat, for example, and wished myself more patience. I found the process much like a Sudoku, in that it is a process of elimination that had vastly more routes to eliminate. Sokobos hits enough of a mark to have an impression on its non-target audience, but did eventually bounce off. An interesting and effective little game, if you’re down with that sort of thing.

Overall 6/10

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