Patrick's Parabox

released on Mar 29, 2022

A mind-bending recursive puzzle game about boxes within boxes within boxes within boxes. Learn to use infinity to your advantage as you explore a deep and elegant system.

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I've played a fair few Sokoban-likes since making an effort to play a wider variety of games. And I think in general... the subgenre isn't really for me? Don't get me wrong, there are some Sokobans I have really enjoyed and appreciated: the genius concept of Baba Is You and the organic simplicity and focus on player discovery in Stephen's Sausage Roll make these among some of the best made puzzle games I've played. But there always becomes a point in these games where frustration overtakes me... when the number of interacting mechanics becomes too great, or the convoluted solutions to the puzzles become too clever for their own good. When the artificial complexity begins to outpace the more organic complexity of one of these games' premises, I always find myself losing interest. Well... that didn't happen with Parabox. Patrick's Parabox starts off a little slow but before long it had grabbed onto me completely and, despite my checkered record on that front, I didn't find myself cheating on a puzzle even once. In terms of pacing, level design and player experience, I would now rate this to be the best Sokoban I've played.

The premise of Parabox is fantastic; the recursion theme is great and requires some really lateral thinking. The actual number of distinct rules the game introduces is surprisingly small, and most of the puzzles are less about applying them in an awkward way and more about exploring the way they interact and their natural corollories. It meant that every time I got stuck on a puzzle it was generally because there was an implication to one of the rules I hadn't worked out yet, and it meant each of these sticking points ended in a great 'a-ha!' moment when I finally managed to solve it. In terms of both the recursive theme and this focus on streamlined puzzles, Parabox reminds me a lot of Cocoon; but while Cocoon came off as being very handholdy and afraid of reaching it's full potential with its puzzles, Parabox is much more trusting of its player's intelligence, and really wrings out every ounce of puzzle potential from its core ruleset. In short, Parabox is pretty much exactly the game I wish Cocoon had been.

There's not much here to write home about in terms of aesthetics, though. I'm not really a huge fan of the music, the visuals are very simplistic and there is no attempt to really have any kind of theming or framework. At first this can make the game seem rather sparse, especially in the early levels where not a whole lot is going on. But once you enter the mid-game and the complexity really starts ramping up, this visual simplicity becomes much more of a blessing than a curse. In particular the use of simple shapes and bright block colours makes it remarkably clear what's going on no matter how crazy the play area gets; the game has the option for you to zoom into any box at any time to see what's happening inside, but the visual design was so clean that I almost never felt the need to.

So yes, all around, a very solid little puzzler. It's a very pure game; like I said, there's no real atmosphere or interesting visuals to speak of, but Parabox really goes all in on its puzzles and they are executed beautifully. Strong recommend from me on this one, even for people who are (like me) unsold on Sokobans in general.

I will say that I do actively recommend this to anyone who enjoys sokoban-esque puzzle games, I just have quite a few issues that make it very hard for me to rate it any higher. (I'm still going through beating levels; this just means that I've reached the "ending"). The biggest issue with this game is the fact that the pacing is horrendous, with so many levels that feel like I learned nothing from playing. So many of the main (white) levels were trivial, with the challenge (red and blue) levels feeling far more worth my time. Unlike Linelith, this game struggles to balance its scale with worthwhile content, because what's the point in having 350+ levels when 50% of them are a slog to go through. What edges it above other games that have a similar issue (The Talos Principle II for example), is that there still is quite a large volume of well-designed and intriguing levels. All the mechanics still do get their time to breathe and develop as mechanics before being introduced to anything else, with it building on each previous mechanic very well. For all the issues I have with the volume of levels, there is still quite a bit of really good content here that I think with a good bit of pruning that this game would be so much better.

Very well designed puzzle game, no story or background but just pure puzzles. Super polished game with some fun mind-bending solutions

The recursion made this game stand out to me, but there were too many mechanics at the end.

Really solid sokoban-type game I binged through. Quite good, although it felt like there were too many mechanics to handle later in the game.

somehow made infinity make sense 10/10