The original SiNKR is the type of game that the more I reflect upon, the more I like. A simple, minimalist puzzler that can be beaten in a day, but is very modestly priced, SiNKR was equal parts engaging and addictive. So, when I heard that SiNKR 2 was making its way to the Xbox Store, you know I had to jump on the opportunity to give this game another whirl. Clocking in at 87 levels compared to the original’s 67, there is plenty of content to enjoy, but does the small team at Wahler Digital manage to capture lightning in a bottle twice?
Beginning with the gameplay, for those not in the loop, SiNKR 2 is a minimalist puzzle game where your goal is to sink pucks into a hole using a hook and some lure. It starts off deceptively simple, but gets increasingly more complex, especially as various level gimmicks are added. The game itself is incredibly accessible, only really requiring the thumbstick and two buttons, and while the puzzles themselves are probably best suited to a keyboard and mouse or touch controls, the controller implementation is great.
Other elements that made the original game so appealing are in full display here, with satisfying background music, and a lone piano note played every time you sink a puck. Sinking a row of pucks can be incredibly satisfying to listen to, and it helps create an almost zen-like experience when playing. In a year as frankly stressful as 2020, having a nice, relaxing puzzle game is in some regards a godsend, and for the most part SiNKR 2 is just that. However, the difficulty is slightly ramped up from the original. There are a few puzzles I will admit needing to consult a guide on, but these were few and far between. More often than not, within a few attempts, you should be able to solve a puzzle. Also new to this version, if a pesky puzzle is warping your brain, you can skip ahead.
In terms of presentation, SiNKR 2 is a minimalist game, but it still can look quite nice. The colours are vibrant and looked great on my 4K display. While it isn’t as visually marvellous as something like Ori and the Will of the Wisps or the recently released Tetris Effect: Connected, it is a great example of a simple art direction executed well. It looks very aesthetically pleasing without ever falling into too much visual noise, something other games like the aforementioned Tetris Effect: Connected and other fellow puzzlers like Ping Redux can be under suboptimal circumstances. All of these aspects really make SiNKR 2 a breath of fresh air, especially in a season with so many big, flashy games competing for our attention.
Now, if there is one place that SiNKR 2 is a bit of a step back from its predecessor, it’s in the level variety. The 87 levels range from simplistic but important (tutorial) to brilliantly designed challenges, much like the first game’s levels. However, some of the gimmicks introduced in the first game such as gears are missing in action in this game, and nothing is really introduced to replace them. While this allows the levels to become more focused and arguably better designed than the first, it is also missing something of a newness factor. To put it this way, SiNKR 2 is more iterative than it is innovative, which is a slight bit of a disappointment. Now, given the price point and level of quality and polish here, you are still getting a great experience, but this feels a bit more like a New Game+ or expansion to the original game than a sequel in its own right, especially with some of the missing features.
What is definitely not missing from the original game however is the incredibly generous achievement system. Within the three and a half hours it takes to complete the game, you should be able to achieve an easy 1000 Gamerscore, so this is your moment achievement hunters! Also, like the original, this is a solely single-player experience, so those looking for a head-to-head with friends like Tetris or Puyo Puyo (or Puyo Puyo Tetris) may be better suited finding other forms of friendly competition.
All in all, SiNKR 2 on Xbox, much like the original game, is a great time. It is equal parts relaxing and satisfying for the majority of the 87 levels, and the difficulty is pretty well-balanced. Sinking a puck in a hole is just as satisfying as ever, and the low asking price (£4.19) makes the game all the more worthwhile. The only thing arguably holding the game back is it sticks very closely to the formula of the original game which, while far from a bad thing, makes it a bit less fresh than the original. Nevertheless, in a year as crazy as 2020, we could all use a break, so it might be worthwhile to step away from games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion for a nice, minimalist palette cleanser.