ORIGINAL: unitied, as it is so styled, stands out for two reasons:
- Its name makes my eyes fold in half.
- It’s a sliding-Sokoban puzzle game that’s actually worth playing.
I realise this is going to take some convincing. I’m also fairly certain that I’m going to spell Unitied incorrectly a few times as we’ll go. I’m certainly going to give it the capital letter developer peter hijma opted out of. (Take that, Peter – see how you feel.)
Sokoban variants are one of the hoariest of puzzle types, gruesomely prevalent and almost always far too pernickity to be rewarding. They’re the ones where you push blocks/crates around a maze without blocking yourself in/blocking off the whatevers you have to pick up. Done really well, it can be great. Done ordinarily, it’s drab and tedious.
One of the main reasons for this is the reliance on failure to progress. Get so far, make a mistake, restart the entire puzzle. There’s something so oof-inducing about Sokoban, about that moment when you push the crate against the wall, and realise there’s no way to push it back again, and all your progress must now be tiresomely repeated. When your game’s pattern goes “try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed”, your player has three feelings of failure to every on feeling of success. That takes a toll.
Yet Unietieed requires the same process. In fact, it’s that even more pernicious form of the breed, one where pushing a tile has it slide inexorably toward the farthest wall. So why the exception?
Because it’s really clever about it! Uinititied seems to have been built from the ground up with an understanding of this issue, taking the limitation as its foundation and creating puzzles that are satisfying within that knowledge. So it is that the puzzles here are set in far smaller mazes than you might normally see, replacing lengthy multi-multiple-step challenges with a far more refined and elegant design.
Using the arrow keys, you move the block, or blocks, in a level, sliding them in the chosen direction until they hit a barrier. The goal is to put each on its target tile, without getting stranded. All fairly typical. But here you’re almost immediately dealing with two blocks at once, then moments later introduced to ‘switches’ – blocks that move along with everything else, but are fixed to their short tracks. So it is that you are very quickly having to solve puzzles by bumping blocks into one another, each helping the other to find their goal, with an instant restart for when that goes astray.
And because the levels are small, this is far more about finding the clever trick required to negotiate each challenge, rather than laboriously repeating the same drudge each time in the hope that this time you won’t hit a literal brick wall.
Then come levels with a big square and little squares, others with switch blocks on square tracks, and then another that looks like a super-simple back-to-basics little level where it’s deceptively tricky to fathom its four or five moves.
What’s most important to me here is that when I complete a puzzle, I smile! They’re so elegant that they’re extremely rewarding. I feel a little bit proud of myself. Which is a very different feeling to the frustrated relief of finally having gotten through it that I more normally associate with sokoban. In fact, and I really feel terrible about admitting this, I emitted some hissed “Yisssssssssss”s, and on one occasion – sorry – I pumped my fist. I know.
I had one colossal complaint with this. The interface is minimal, just unmarked arrows on the screen, with no explanation. It doesn’t even mention level numbers. Clicking one such arrow reset my entire progress with no warning, no “are you sure?”, nothing. So I just had to start the whole game again. However, I left a comment about this on the Steam discussion page, and it was fixed within hours! That button no longer does anything as mad.
It remains the case that the interface is unexplained,
and rather annoyingly there’s no level select screen, but this is apparently something planned for a future update but level select is now in the game. It’s also worth noting that pressing Esc automatically quits to desktop without warning, which is also extremely silly. Which is all to say, it could do with a better UI.
But the puzzles? They’re great. It doesn’t become as fiendishly hard as I imagine some would like – this isn’t Stephen’s Sausage Roll (thank goodness) – but I got properly stumped for a bit on a couple of the 35 that are there. (Apparently another 15 are coming soon too.) The rest were just really rewarding to deduce, and that’s a really lovely sweet spot to find in a puzzle game.
Which all means I’m kind of sad Uinitieid only costs 79p. I’d be happy to have paid a fiver for this, at least. It’s certainly worth it, and I’d really like to see the price of this one going up. It’s a properly lovely little package, and well worth puzzling through.