The sokoban puzzle concept of manoeuvring boxes into specific areas has undoubtedly inspired many games, but the most recent experience for me was SokoBunny. It’s very basic in that you just kick crates around while using a bunny, trying to move them into place. And even though the latest sokoban style offering Sig.NULL isn’t reinventing the wheel, it promises a smarter version of the Japanese game. So, let’s see whether Sig.NULL pushes all the right buttons to create a rewarding puzzler, or if it’s destined for the soko-bin.
Well, one thing is for certain: you’re going to need plenty of smarts to work out the clever puzzles of Sig.NULL. It could really present more of a helping hand in some cases however, which is one of only a couple of downsides.
Sig.NULL doesn’t profess to be a puzzler with a rich narrative, so it comes as no shock that the sole purpose is simply to solve all the levels and reboot a system core. Given the cybernetic world setting, everything looks the part at least and you do feel as though you’re messing with the inner workings of a machine. It even displays the levels in a grid layout as if they’re chips connected together, which is pretty cool – although slightly confusing to navigate initially. The sound also goes in its favour by creating noises associated with computing, really helping to capture that overall theme.
Now the scene is set, it’s time to grasp the concept and fortunately there’s a little tutorial – like, a proper short one. Here, you’ll learn about the drone used to push buttons, which in turn will move other drones required to push crates into their designated sockets. When a drone is nearby these crates, they can be rotated to ensure their orientation matches the final resting place. That’s pretty much everything you’re taught, and if that really was all Sig.NULL had to offer, that would see it coming across as incredibly one-dimensional.
In reality, there are over 100 levels that regularly introduce new mechanics and increasingly complex conundrums. The fact that multiple drones could end up performing your requested action at the same time leads to needing a lot of focus and logical thinking. What’s good for one drone might render another useless during the advanced box-pushing exercises. Even the crates move in unison if similarly aligned, which makes things get wild real quick. And, I’m not trying to worry you but, that particular aspect is the simplest of all the potential problems you’ll be facing throughout.
You see, every differently coloured drone under your command has a different quirk that can become either super helpful, or a real hindrance. For example, the yellow drones explode at your behest by using the rotate button, and this can eliminate crates that simply don’t belong or the remnants of the cyan drone. Cyan is a pain in the backside because it leaves an impenetrable wall wherever it goes, while the orange is the kind of drone that corrupts blocks and turns them orange too. The most mysterious of the pack bears a dark blue tone to it and seems rather plain at first inspection, but it’s true nature had me stumped for ages.
It’s tricky to criticise Sig.NULL for adding in these nifty mechanics without any explanation, because the many possible combinations of them truly culminates in a raft of excellent puzzles. After all, figuring out what the drones do and how their attributes can come in handy is half the fun. Ultimately though, the sheer difficulty of the puzzle is hard enough without being dumbfounded regarding the tools at your disposal, which may put the casual crowd off. If only there could have been a slightly more advanced tutorial to provide a small slice of help.
That being said, Sig.NULL does deliver plenty of rewarding moments as you will feel rather brainy once you’ve cracked a level. There’s also a fair amount of replayability due to it tracking the number of moves taken to reach the solution, tempting the more competitive folk to attempt a more efficient approach. Furthermore, if you get stuck on a particular level, another one – at least – is usually available elsewhere on the grid, thus preventing progress becoming stagnant.
On the whole, Sig.NULL is a daunting sokoban puzzler that drops you in at the deep end without much aid. But that, coupled with the steep difficulty curve, is the only real off-putting factor. There are loads of cleverly designed problems to solve and you will be darn happy after each completed level. It’s great to see new mechanics thrown in to freshen up the experience, combining to create even more complex puzzles. Despite the actual solutions often being doable in under a minute, you’ll sink a lot of time into the trial and error stage of proceedings, giving the game decent longevity.
For under a fiver, you could do much worse than pick up Sig.NULL on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and dive right into its intelligent cybernetic puzzles today.