Cat Sokoban, by sylvie (2014)
Sokoban is arguably the great puzzle game genre of the 21st century (or at least the one that isn’t match-three a la Candy Crush). The genre’s been with us since the 1980s, but particularly in the space of free indie games it’s blossomed in the last . This has been helped, in no small part, by the incomparable Increpare’s open source 2013* PuzzleScript engine, which makes the design of low-resolution, browser-playable sokoban-type puzzle games accessible. (One can make other types of puzzle games in PuzzleScript, but the engine seem particularly optimized for this genre.)
Cat Sokoban (not made in PuzzleScript) does not feature the most complicated or sophisticated puzzle design you’ll ever encounter in a sokoban game. However, instead of pushing around boxes or balls, you find yourself, quite literally, herding cats. Living, curious, wandering cats. There’s a good chance that that information alone is enough to make you want to go play it, so feel free to skip the rest of this review and herd some cats right meow.
Author sylvie’s characteristically adorable pixel art really makes the game come to life. You also get a randomized assortment of cat colors with each stage try. And cats–as cats are wont to do–will fall asleep. If they fall asleep at their destination, this is good news for the harried cat-herder. However, if they fall asleep anywhere else, it becomes impossible to move them while they doze and their nap time makes it that much less likely that cats you’ve secured in place will remain there. The fact that these cats have minds of their own means that sylvie can set up situations that would be impossible in normal sokoban games.
These cats can be frustrating, to be sure, but if their cute little mews fail to melt your heart, their precious little faces while they sleep just might.
Who can stay mad at that?
Cat Sokoban is available to play for free on the author’s website.
*Of note is that 2013 is also the year that Increpare released one of the highlights of the entire genre, English Country Tune.