‘Sokomania 2: Cool Job’ is a new puzzle game for the 3DS which has taken inspiration from a variety of popular games which have been released over the years. ‘Sokomania 2’ draws it’s biggest inspiration form an early 80’s computer game by the name of ‘Sokoban’. The main principle of Sokoban was that the player control’s a character from an overhead perspective and it’s their job to push a selection of blocks onto particular spots on the floor. This was usually easier said than done as the stages allowed for very limited movement, therefore you had to think very logically about which order you moved which blocks and where exactly you pushed them to. This is the backbone of ‘Sokomania 2’, however it takes things a step further by incorporating elements from another fantastic puzzle game of which I’m a bit of a fan, ‘Chips Challenge.’
In ‘Chips Challenge’ you again control a character from an overhead perspective, but rather than pushing blocks your goal is to use the environment around you to assist in getting to an exit. This may involve finding keys to open doors, hitting switches, controlling conveyor belts, sliding across ice, etc. ‘Sokomania 2’ takes the block pushing formula of Sokoban and freshens it up with some environmental mechanics such as boxes on wheels, doors, switches, pressure pads and frozen blocks.
Like Sokoban & Sokomania you take the roll of a warehouse employee, only in this game he’s in charge of storing crates of food which either need to be refrigerated or frozen. This bit of back story actually explains one of the new innovations and that’s the ‘frozen spots’. In addition to the regular floor spots, these ‘frozen spots’ will cause your crates to freeze effectively creating blocks that you need to work into your solutions.
The game only has one main mode, however you can create up to three save profiles. The aim of the game is not only to park all of your crates into the designated storage spots, but also to complete each puzzle in as few moves as possible. Each level has a target score which decreases with each move you make. The more moves it takes, the lower the score you earn for beating the puzzle. If you think you can do better at a particular puzzle you may reattempt any of the 100 puzzles that you have beaten at any time from the main menu.
The controls are incredibly simple and anyone should be able to get the hang of them quickly. You move your player with either the D-Pad or circle stick. The face buttons can be used to move the camera view, giving you the opportunity to study the stage. Lastly the triggers are used to rewind the gameplay which gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes you’ve made. The rewind function is useful if you’ve made an incorrect move, however normally when I make a mistake it’s because I haven’t fully grasped the solution and I usually just restart the puzzle from the pause menu. If you’re finding a particular puzzle to be too difficult you can skip it from the pause menu and come back to it later, however you can only do this a limited number of times.
Although the controls are simple to master the puzzles in this game are not so easy. When you hear the concept of a block pushing game it may not sound too deep but a lot of the stages require quite a bit of logical thinking or you’re going to end up getting stuck. As I played through the early stages I found myself running into dead ends a lot, and over time I started teaching myself small tips and quirks like never push blocks into corners as you’ll have no way of getting around them to push them back out. After getting stung a few times I stopped running into new stages head first to see what I could achieve off the bat. Instead I’d study the map for a short time and look at what could potentially be achieved and try to identify problems I might run into.
A lot of video games described as ‘puzzle’ games may have puzzle elements to them such as tile based games or physics based games, but this one actually has the complexity and challenge to earn the title of a true puzzle game. It really makes you think and when you do tackle a situation successfully it’s very satisfying.
Initially I was going to state that the graphics here are nothing particularly impressive and are about average for a cheap indie 3DS title, however after researching Sokoban, Chips Challenge & the original Sokomania it’s worth noting that the graphics in this game have actually shown quite a bit of improvement over those which inspired it. They still look a bit ‘stock’ and have an aroma of clip art about them, but they’re not as primitive as those found in the previous Sokomania.
The music here is actually very interesting. There are not any catchy tunes which you’ll have stuck in your head after playing, however there is a mysterious ambient tone to the music which sets quite a calming mood and I think helps when you’re trying to concentrate on the problem in hand.
I didn’t notice any problems as such while playing. Any mistakes I made in the early stages which I initially put down to poor game design / controls were actually more to do with a lack of experience on my part and not understanding how some of the environmental mechanics worked. The game starts off with a few easy puzzles to help you get used to the mechanics and environmental objects, but it isn’t long before the game removes the stabilizers and you’re left fending for yourself.
‘Sokomania 2: Cool Job’ may not be much to look at, but underneath it’s shallow exterior is a well thought out set of logic puzzles which will help to expand your mind and give you little bursts of satisfaction as you beat each stage.
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