PC, Mac, Linux
I don’t think I’ve said any phrase more often on this site than, “I don’t like Sokoban games, but…” And it’s true! I’ve played a whole bunch of recent offerings that fit the criteria this week, and all of them lost me after a handful of levels. But not Seek Etyliv, a 2018 game I came across during Steam’s recent puzzle sale. This is the distillation of the concept into its most minimalist form, and yet also far more interesting for it. 3 x 3 grids, that’s it, in which you must move your character around such that everything else in a level is destroyed.
This begins as simply as possible, just having your bash crates off the sides of the grid. Then it’s about bashing into gravestones, such that they’re destroyed. Then it adds monsters, and it gets a whole lot more interesting, as you’re required to bash them before they bash you. They can’t move (yet), but you can all-too-easily manoeuvre yourself into a position where there’s nothing between them and a wall but for you. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, these are three-by-three grids.
Once you’ve mastered bopping enemies, the game adds weapons. Hold one yourself and you can attack in tight spaces. But if they hold one, then you can’t just bash them as you’ll get chopped in half – you’ll need to wait until they’re asleep. But if you know anything about monsters, you’ll know that they’re always woken up when you stand diagonally across from them, so you need to fathom your route. And, yes, I realise that sounds crazy in a game that is – and I really hope I’ve made this clear – set in three times three grids.
It was puzzle #19 that first stumped me. That’s almost halfway in, so it’s fair to say you’ll be breezing through until that point. But somehow, despite the tiny play area, it was managing to come up with designs that weren’t immediately obvious to solve. Then, as quickly as it did, it moved on and was introducing new ideas, new monster types.
There is an attempt at storytelling within all this, but it’s pretty nonsensical, and I think poorly translated. What’s far more interesting is somehow managing to create a solid puzzle game in what I believe I might have mentioned is a nine-square grid. Yes, it gets easier again after that midpoint, with the next thinker at #35 of what I thought was going to be the total of 38. But at the same time, this is currently £2.50, and you’d be quite the fool to complain about an hour’s fun for that. Except, well, it kept going! With new ideas!
AND IT’S STILL IN A THREE-BY-THREE GRID.
It’s worth adding that it’s all presented in a tiny, two-colour rectangle in the middle of your screen, and looks lovely. The art is incredibly simple, but this belies the detail in the animations, the movements, and the perfect sound effects. This could have been much more throw-away, and still worked, and I love that it’s not. It is definitely a shame that the text is so incomprehensible, because it’d have been the cherry on top to have a great little story told as you played. As it is, however, you can just click through it.
Oh, and by this point I probably should have mentioned that Seek Etyliv takes place in a three-by-three grid.