Puzzle games are easily among the most difficult of all titles to review. Many of them come across as completely no-frills experiences, stripped of many of the aspects of modern day gaming we’ve come to expect. The graphics are often simplistic, far from your typical AAA game or even an independent one. The story is almost always non-existent. What’s left is the gameplay, and without all the bells and whistles of most games, a puzzler lives and dies on how fun it is to play. Enter SiNKR, a game that has existed on PC and mobile in the past, now making its way to Xbox One. The game is developed by Robert Wahler, an independent developer from Atlanta, and published by his company, Wahler Digital.
Described by Mr. Wahler as intentionally minimalist, SiNKR has players move around little fishing line looking things with hooks on the end (scientific, I know) with the goal of sinking a puck in a hole. On the surface, it looks and sounds simple, but some of these challenges are incredibly difficult and complex. On at least two of the 67 levels, I found myself gritting my teeth, having failed more times than my pride wants to admit. Some of the other levels, in contrast, can be completed in under 30 seconds. On the whole, however, the game is well balanced, with the majority of the levels perfectly walking the line between not too difficult and not too easy. This helps make SiNKR accessible without compromising the core puzzle experience.
In each of the game’s 10 parts, a new gimmick is introduced to shake things up. These can take the form of everything from portals, to directional pads to gears. These gimmicks can really change the flow of the game, encouraging more thoughtful play, and keeping each subsequent level new and interesting. My personal favorites are the movement tiles and the portals, as they make for some truly unique puzzles. Each of these introductions carries forward to the rest of the game, so it never feels like you are needlessly learning the ins and outs of them mechanically; a contrast to some other puzzle games that only feature ideas for a couple of levels.
Moving on to SiNKR’s aesthetics, as mentioned prior, and the game features a minimalist style. This is easily most apparent in the visuals of the game, which are simple and to the point. The colour pallete is pretty much entirely black and white, and the shapes rendered are basic, but it does the job well. It’s not as visually exciting as other games in the genre such as PING REDUX, but this also keeps the game absent of some of the visual noise that those such as the aforementioned can fall into at points.
Then there is the soundtrack and it’s comprised of royalty free tracks, that, while not groundbreaking by any means, fit the tone of the game perfectly. And on the topic of said tone, it is important to note that SiNKR is an incredibly relaxing game to play. While some of the levels can be tricky, the relaxing visuals and music encourage you to keep playing. One of the most charming ways it manages to do this is through the sound design. For every successful puck you sink, a single piano note is played. When you sink multiple pucks in unison, the notes flow one into another beautifully. It’s all incredibly calming and rewarding in a way that can only be fully understood by playing.
Finally, I’d like to touch on some other elements of the game. In what is likely to be a godsend for all you completionists out there, SiNKR on Xbox One features an easy 1000 points of Gamerscore, which can be earned within about two hours of play. However, for those wishing to play with friends, SiNKR is a solely single-player experience. It is also worth addressing that arguably the only disappointing aspect of the game is the lack of content. As mentioned, it only takes a couple of hours to complete and some of the 67 levels can go by incredibly fast. Still, given the low price point, it’s easy to justify a purchase here, and when a game leaves you wanting more it just goes to show how strong it is in the first place.
All in all, SiNKR on Xbox One is a thoroughly satisfying experience, and one definitely worth the play. It may frustrate at times, but the satisfaction that comes from completing a difficult level is rather euphoric. Also, given the easy 1000 Gamerscore on offer, and the low asking price, it’s not hard to recommend you spend time with the game. If sinking pucks sounds up your alley, or you just love puzzle games, SiNKR is definitely for you.