Sokoban games have been around since the very beginning of video gaming. There’s something about pushing blocks around that is just so strangely entertaining (and often extremely frustrating), that it’s now been able to find a place as a real staple of the puzzle genre. As such, it’s no wonder they’re ten-a-penny. And now we have another one. Escape Sequence – the latest game published by Xitilon Games – promises more Sokoban shenanigans as you push your way through various dungeons and, ultimately, to freedom.
Sokoban experiences always tend to synergise well with a pixel graphical style and that retro aesthetic. Escape Sequence is no different. Unfortunately, I found this game’s pixel art and colour scheme to be a little uninspired and drab. The audio wasn’t much better either, with the tinkly tune ending up becoming annoyingly repetitive after just a few minutes or so.
Fortunately, it’s only up from there.
In an unusual twist Escape Sequence won’t have you pushing blocks with the sole purpose of clearing a path. Instead, you’ll need to move the blocks so that you can take control of the various coloured pawns strewn across your arena. Once controlled, these will respond to your movements and you’ll need to manipulate them into clearing a path for you.
It’s a very unique variation on a well-trodden concept, and, most importantly, an enjoyable one. If it sounds confusing, rest assured – it’s not. Once you get to playing it, you’ll quickly find the entire thing self-evident. In fact, Escape Sequence happily gives you the first few levels as a warm-up to really get to grips with the general concept and how the command blocks work and interact with each other.
After those first few levels, the game does ramp up in difficulty somewhat, as more command blocks and coloured pawns come into play. Importantly though, things never seem to end up becoming impossibly hard like so many other Sokobans. In fact, Escape Sequence’s puzzles fall into that sweet spot of being both challenging and entertaining.
The rewind feature that has been included really boosts the game too. By allowing you to erase the last move you made, it encourages experimentation with different strategies, all without fear of having to restart the entire puzzle again. It’s a helpful addition that is much appreciated.
If you aren’t a puzzle fan there is another reason to be interested in what has been created here – Escape Sequence has a simple set of Xbox achievements that might entice you in. In fact, you’ll only need to finish all fifteen levels and you’ll have a brand new Xbox completion and another thousand Gamerscore to add to your collection. If you so happen to think of yourself as a bit of a puzzling machine, you’ll no doubt be able to do that in ten minutes, but there is no reason why anybody couldn’t reasonably expect to be done with this game in well under an hour.
The only real criticism of Escape Sequence is that it is simply way too short. There are only fifteen levels in the entire game, and whilst that’s pretty understandable considering it’s the result of a one man development team, at £4.19 you’d perhaps expect a little more for your money.
So what do we have with Escape Sequence? Well, it’s a game that takes a familiar formula, and absolutely succeeds in adding its own personality onto it. It’s a success in terms of level design and difficulty, and does what other puzzle games so often fail to do – it makes puzzles that are equal parts challenging and enjoyable. On top of that, you have the ludicrously easy set of Xbox achievements to sweeten the deal further.
Escape Sequence should possibly keep you going for longer than it does, even when the asking price is relatively low. Instead it feels like £4.19 is a steep price tag for just fifteen levels of gameplay, and that’ll possibly end up putting a lot of people off. Even so, if you’re in the market for a new puzzle game, I’d recommend giving Escape Sequence a try.
Escape Sequence provides a short but challenging puzzle experience on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One