Ewan finds a Sokobahn puzzle game to keep him entertained.
Sometimes I love finding a new concept in puzzle games, sometimes the best titles are the ones that just about manage to find a new idea but come up slightly short; and sometimes all I want is a well implemented version of a classic genre.
BoxIt2 is the latter, and being honest, it’s been a while since I’ve had a Sokobahn game to review. The mix of fresh style and an old friend, with all the elements working, means I’m enjoying BoxIt2.
Available for S60 5th Edition devices from the Ovi Store, BoxIt2 is a straightforward implementation of Sokobahn. The box pushing game gives you a 'not-that-complicated' maze, with various heavy objects that you push towards some highlighted target squares. In BoxIt2, these are Inca statues, which need to be placed in specific spots to pass the level.
The twist, and it’s a horrible twist, is that you can’t pull the statues, shift them sideways, or push two in one move. If you get a statue against a wall, or touching another statue, you’d better hope there’s a gap at the side so you can push it sideways.
This means that each level generally has one or two solutions, but lots of possible ways of pushing the statues. Finding the right path is a mix of logical deduction, trial and error, and trying to avoid frustration, as you move along. There is an undo last step feature, but this still increases the number of moves you make, so it is for emergencies only.
That step count is how you are scored - although there is also a time element. The purists will ignore that and try to complete the level taking as few steps (moves) as possible. The important question is: Yes you can finish a level, but can you do it in 16 less moves?
The great thing about Sokobahn games is they are always solvable; it’s just that sometimes the solution can be incredibly maddening. In this games there are 36 different levels to play, covering the full range of Sokobhan 'techniques'.
Being touchscreen based, the big question I had was how would the directional controls be handled? In this case it is done with big icons on either side of the screen: up and down buttons on one side, left and right on the other. This means that, when holding the device in landscape mode (which the game runs in), your thumbs are hovering over the buttons. This works well, especially when you have haptic feedback/screen vibration turned on. Such touch controls are well suited to this type of games, given that there are no lightning quick reactions required; rather it is very much a think, then press, then think again.
The only addition to the game, compared to the classic Sokobahn, is the occasional rising spike from the ground to injure your character, frankly I could have done without this, as it does spoil the pureness of the game.
The level count does seems a little short; the classic versions of Sokobahn number the levels in the hundreds. I think they’re holding back some for a sequel. There's a balance between making sure the game has a nice shelf life and having so long a play time that you do not come back and download some more titles from the company.
But those two small points aside, I found myself really enjoying this game. It is a classic puzzle game, implemented really well, and I’d recommend it to everyone. Unless you have Rubiks'-a-phobia there’s something here for most gamers.
There remains only one question for InnerActive and the Ovi Store team… where’s BoxIt1?
-- Ewan Spence, August 2010.