Not that long ago, I was kicking cars around a parking lot for ‘fun’ in the rabbit-centric puzzler, Bunny Parking. While the actual concept was passable, many other aspects failed to hit the mark. The team behind it, Dillyframe Games, are back with another puzzle game on Xbox One in the form of SokoBunny. Despite the name, it isn’t about South Korean bunnies, but instead the Japanese game known as Sokoban, which was a real hit back in the ‘80s. Can this old school, box-pushing idea be modernised into a great, yet challenging, experience?
Well, SokoBunny is certainly challenging; just not necessarily in the way that you’d hope. That’s because the real challenge is to ignore the obvious flaws and somehow try to enjoy the good bits – however sparse they may be.
SokoBunny bases its core concept on Sokoban, which is a classic game about pushing boxes around a warehouse in order to place them in specific storage locations. That’s fine and all, but not many people are likely to know what Sokoban is. Fortunately the developers have included a tutorial and one would assume it’s the ideal platform to explain their modern take on proceedings. For some reason, that’s not the case and instead you’ll just be thrown into a series of levels – 10 in total for the ‘tutorial’ – with the onus on you to figure out what to do. Not the brightest idea.
So let me attempt to describe the goings on instead. You’ll take control of a bunny in third-person perspective and be put in an enclosed area made up of shelves. Within this area are a varying number of boxes and a corresponding amount of pallets to manoeuvre them onto. The aim is to use the bunny to kick those boxes one space at a time until they reach their final destinations. It can lead to a fair bit of trial and error, seeing wrong decisions often going hand in hand with no moves being left available. There’s an undo button, but it only undoes a single action, therefore a full level reset is required should you have made many mistakes.
The main levels play out inside a contained zone that’s located within a fairly bland open-world environment. These are split across Mini, Midi and Maxi difficulties, featuring 50 levels for each – a whopping 150 overall. As the difficulty increases, the layouts become more convoluted, there are more boxes to kick about and the frustration rears its ugly head. As gamers, we want a feeling of accomplishment upon success, however the general consensus after each offering is an overwhelming relief that it’s over.
You see, while the puzzle concept itself is decent, far too many of the levels seem implausible to complete without resorting to exploits or roping in a co-op partner. Every level can be attempted online with a friend and that’s a blessing really, because solutions to some problems appear impossible for a single player to perform. Even then, it’s quite common for a double act to easily be stumped.
I wouldn’t normally advocate exploiting any game, but SokoBunny leaves very little alternative for anyone wanting to power through. Upon rendering a level before your very eyes, it can often place one player on top of the surrounding shelves by accident, enabling them to wander freely and approach puzzles from a different angle. Sadly, it can also turn into a mess as random bunnies lurking nearby sometimes get drawn in as well as erratically behaving vehicles that decide to try their luck at off-roading. The most annoying part is how ridiculous the physics are when the slightest contact with a moving box can send you flying miles out of the area.
Outside of the puzzles, there’s a decent sized open-world to wander around with the likes of driveable forklifts, a paint shop to change the colour of your bunny, and a football pitch to play on. It’s just all so bland and pointless though, adding nothing worthwhile to the overall experience. And speaking of things SokoBunny could do without, the constantly looping audio track is enough to send you crazy. Turning the sound off in-game won’t help however, as it restores itself to full volume after each level.
It’s clear that SokoBunny on Xbox One has good intentions in trying to rejuvenate the forgotten game of Sokoban, but there are simply too many flaws to overlook here. As a puzzle, the idea is clever albeit minimalistic, and there are plenty of levels to get stuck into. The problem is that it becomes repetitive really quickly as the gameplay barely changes through progression. Also, too many of the levels seem impossible to complete by yourself – if at all – and it is full of silly issues which wear away at what little is remaining of your patience.
All in all, SokoBunny’s drawbacks counteract the positive aspects so I can’t in good faith recommend a purchase, unless you’re planning on playing it in co-op. Even then though, it’s still a stretch to suggest buying it.