What’s the chance we would receive two cat-based sokoban (box-pushing) games to review in the space of a month? Pretty likely, apparently, as we have the pleasure of giving a verdict on both Sokocat – Combo and Sissa’s Path in quick succession.
But as with many of these coincidental confluences, there’s a winner and a loser. Getting the Top Trumps cards ready, it soon becomes clear that Sissa’s Path – unfortunately – loses in every category. If cats make you squee, and you’re in the mood for a cutesy puzzler, this is not the one to pick of the two.
Graphically, Sissa’s Path is on the rudimentary side. Someone clearly splashed out in Dunelm and bought several large sheets of tablecloth to use as a background. The grid that you’re hopping about on isn’t much better, either: this time they’ve popped to B&Q and bought some concrete paving slabs. It’s not the most appealing of arenas to play around in.
Praise be for cats, then. Sissa is at least a cute, cubic bundle. She hops in a merry fashion on the paving slabs, nudging the turquoise balls of wall into the blinding white goals. Without her, this would have been one of the most plainly presented Xbox games in recent memory.
Your aim, as it is in most sokoban titles, is to get a box or boxes onto pressure pads that signify the goals for the level. As mentioned, the boxes are balls of wool, and you can move them in the cardinal directions by hopping behind them and giving them a nudge. As levels progress, you can have upwards of eight balls of wall and the same number of goals to push them into.
In this regard, Sissa’s Path does fine. The controls do what you want them to, and there were few instances where we made a mistake and blamed it on anyone else but ourselves. There’s even an Undo button which helpfully rewinds one turn, but we would have taken a more generous archive of previous moves to skip back to. If you realise you have made a mistake several turns back, all you can do is reset. Which, admittedly, is done quickly with the touch of a Y button.
Where Sokocat – Combo gets fiendish enough to reduce your brain to a grey puddle, adding new blocks and obstacles as it goes, Sissa’s Path can be considered the gentler, simpler cousin. There are no new blocks or obstacles tossed into the mixer as the levels progress. There is wool, and the spaces in which wool goes. You won’t need to adapt to any mechanics or gimmicks over the forty-eight levels.
The challenge slider is yanked pretty far over to ‘chilled’, too. In sokoban games, you often have situations where the arena is so tightly constructed, and the blocks so numerous, that you feel there must be only one or two solutions. Almost every block-push has to be carefully considered, as it might lead you down a dead-end where there’s no return.
Sissa’s Path doesn’t agree with that approach. Arenas are larger than they probably need to be, and there are probably billions of permutations for completing them. In some of the later levels, when you have seven or eight wool balls, you can be initially daunted until you realise that the puzzle can be solved by just moving troublesome balls out of the way, giving yourself breathing room.
On occasion, it felt like we were doing some Resident Evil inventory management, rather than playing a head-scratching puzzle. Wilmot’s Warehouse also came to mind: a game where it’s less about finding the correct place to put something, and more about making a bit of room.
Now, there’s a bit of enjoyment to be found in that. We gave Wilmot’s Warehouse a four out of five for a reason: there’s some feng-shui enjoyment of tidying up to make better sense of the place. In Sissa’s Path, you can almost completely switch off, pushing the most troublesome of balls into the least obstructive of holes. It’s nice. It’s fine.
But if you came for a challenge then Sissa’s Path is not selling it, and the space-management leads to a fair old whack of saminess. Arenas begin to blend into each other, particularly as no new hazards get added. Even the balls stay the same teal colour, so you begin to wonder whether you’ve stepped into a haberdashery-based remake of Groundhog Day.
Sissa’s Path was not the game we expected to play. We assumed that its cutesiness was hiding a butt-clenchingly hard box-pusher, as most sokoban games are. We were prepared to be put through our paces.
What we got instead was a soft, gentle little game that only vaguely qualifies as a puzzle title. Arenas are big enough that you can just roll balls around, arriving at a solution in your own good time. It’s relaxation gaming, with an adorable cubic cat at its core.
If you want anything more than that, then Sissa’s Path has trouble. It can’t muster up a single confounding layout, or a single mechanic beyond pushing wool up, down, left or right. So while we found Sissa’s Path soothing in its own laid-back manner, we also found that the path it offered didn’t really go anywhere. Sissa could have done with showing more claws.
You can buy Sissa’s Path from the Xbox Store