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SokoFrog Review

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If you’re going to make a game where falling into water is instant death, don’t make your main character a frog. Don’t pick the world’s most iconic amphibian. Sure, it’s not a criticism that should ever factor into the scoring of a game, but come on, it’s a frog, people.

To give SokoFrog some credit, there are other more frog-appropriate ways to die. Spikes, for example. And bottomless black holes. We appreciate that these are hazards you should avoid as a box-pushing frog.

The ‘Soko’ in the SokoFrog title comes from ‘Sokoban’, the Japanese word for ‘warehouse keeper’, and the 1982 classic that kickstarted the genre of box puzzles. Thanks to the influence of that game, we have played umpteen similar games over the years, clearing crates to get to exits, drop boxes onto switches and other variations. Doing it as a frog, though, may be a first.

SokoFrog review 1
Get pushing those boxes – as a little frog

SokoFrog doesn’t waste its time trying to explain why you are here or why you’ve got webbed feet and hands. It’s 100 puzzles where the aim is to nudge a kind of companion cube onto a matching square somewhere else on a grid. Manage that and a door slides open, taking you to the next level. That’s it: there’s no remixes on that theme. SokoFrog is deliberately simple.

What does change is the layout of the level and the obstacles in the way. As you’d expect from the subgenre, there are other, less vital blocks cluttering the room. And there are sides and corners to the room: the enemy of any Sokoban. Push your crate into one of these and there’s a good chance it will be stuck there forever. You can’t get behind the block to push it. Your only option is to tap RB and restart the sucker.

Levels become tentative affairs, as you move square by square working out what will progress you and what will kill you (or get you irredeemably stuck). And the levels start stirring in more and more considerations. Holes are hazards until you realise that you can push unwanted blocks into them. Spikes will kill you, but – again – they can swallow up blocks too. Tall blocks can be pushed into holes to make gangways, and bombs will obliterate some of those blocks that were impending you earlier. As you can probably tell, each obstacle is neatly double-edged. They can help you just as much as hinder you.

And there are the changes of setting, introduced every twenty levels. Ice levels are box-sliding puzzles, as one delicate tap will send the box shooting into a direction. Mines will only let you see a few feet in front of your face. Suddenly, there’s a pile of stuff that you have to factor in when solving a level.

SokoFrog review 2
Frogs love water, right?

Our abiding question, though, is why is SokoFrog so afraid to use them? SokoFrog is at pains to create such a broad selection of toys and blockers, but it’s too worried about whether you might get stuck. So it withholds them, rarely using more than one in each level, and they are toothless as a result.

Take the obstacle crates. There’s almost always one of them in a level, and they’re in your way. Other Sokobans would have you working out which square or nook to tuck them into, perhaps even performing a dance as you have to sidle the unwanted box around your companion cube without getting either of them stuck. But SokoFrog worries that will be too much, so chucks in pits and spikes. All you have to do is push the blocking crate into one of them, and it’s no longer a consideration. Each level starts by ‘killing’ these boxes, and that’s trivially easy. It’s almost pointless having the crates there in the first place. We couldn’t help wonder what the game would look like without pits and spikes.

Stopping short of difficulty is SokoFrog’s favourite hobby. Bombs should be amazing. Working out what to blow up to create a path, all while avoiding exploding your crate, is a cracking addition to the genre. They even act like Bomberman bombs, exploding in channels. But SokoFrog keeps giving you winks and nudges about where the bomb should go. Look! There are three blocks with a gap between: perhaps a bomb should go there! It’s satisfying to see them explode, but – again – it’s more trivial than, say, a puzzle.

The levels are careful to keep puzzle elements separate from each other. Bombs don’t meet sliding puzzles, tall blocks don’t meet dark rooms. It gives each biome a distinct feel, but it also means some opportunities go unexplored. Later levels could have stacked these things up to get us stroking our beards, but our beards went unstroked.

SokoFrog review 3
A little snack of a game

For a younger player, this is a good thing. If you’re introducing a pre-teen to the genre for the first time, then SokoFrog is carefully curated to be that experience. There’s generally one problem to solve per level, and there aren’t many permutations for how the problem can be solved. SokoFrog is actually very good at making you think that you’re a Mensa superstar when, actually, there was only one way that you could have pushed the block without it nestling into a corner.

For anyone other than a pre-teen, SokoFrog will lack a bit of edge. It could very easily have been a poison dart frog, laced with death, but instead it’s a cuddly plushy. We would suspect that the average gamer reaches the end of its 100 levels in under 90 minutes. There are no nobbly achievements to worry yourself about: you will have the full Gamerscore in your pocket without replaying a thing. Which, now we think about it, is also a missed opportunity. Completing the levels in a minimum number of moves, time limit, or even nabbing collectibles – hidden or visible – would have added some easy longevity. But SokoFrog doesn’t quite have the chutzpah to do that, either.

SokoFrog is a breezy and well presented Sokoban that would serve as a good entry point to the genre. But it’s also deathly worried about being challenging or remotely complicated. If it took more risks, it could have been a meal: as it is, it’s just a frog-leg snack.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Easy as pie to get into
  • Lots of ideas for obstacles
  • Cute retro presentation
Cons:
  • Easy as pie to complete
  • Never layers mechanics on each other
  • Lacks reasons for replay
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 10 April 2024 | £4.19
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Easy as pie to get into</li> <li>Lots of ideas for obstacles</li> <li>Cute retro presentation</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Easy as pie to complete</li> <li>Never layers mechanics on each other</li> <li>Lacks reasons for replay</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 10 April 2024 | £4.19</li> </ul>SokoFrog Review
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