Sokoban games. The art of pushing blocks into a designated position to clear a level. There are so many but to be at the top of the Sokoban class you usually need to have a few key elements. Clear rules. Simple logic (at first anyway). A strong visual identity or personality. Crafty level design. Abridge has all of that and gave me plenty of brain-melting challenges in a bite-sized and accessible way.
Abridge has four different block types that are introduced early in the game as the main idea. You have to get all the blocks into the goal by moving them across a grid but each block moves and therefore pushes blocks they run into differently. Arrows move only in the direction they are pointing in. Squares can move in all four compass directions. Diamonds can only move diagonally. Circles can move in all four compass directions but hook onto other blocks to potentially drag them along behind them. Often blocks start out in positions where they simply aren’t capable of making it to the goal and so using planning and block pushing you may be able to use say a square or arrow to push a diamond onto the right diagonal line. it could be pushing a left arrow under a down one so it can then be pushed down the screen. All the possibilities are there if you look and plan hard enough.
Levels fall into two main categories for me. Larger open spaces often lead you to a lot of choices and a few levels can be solved in variants of a theme. Largely there are certain moves you’ll have to make though to clear a level properly. The open space is its only trap though as you can easily make a wrong move early on and set yourself up for failure. Thankfully the painless undo button can take you back every move you make and is a welcome feature I spammed frequently! The other type of level is where space is a premium. These levels are all about the slow shuffle to get some blocked in pieces out of a corner or a nook and into a place to escape to the goal. Both are satisfying to play and never so convoluted that they become a chore. Later in the game Abridge then switches things up with some other surprises such as mirror levels and corrupt pieces that behave differently. Every 7 or 8 levels brings something new and keeps things fresh.
Levels are grouped together in a way that introduces you to a gameplay mechanic and then you have a set to choose from and complete in any order. Clear a few of them and the next set is unlocked which is great from a player progression point of view. I often find with Sokoban games when I look at a level I either click with it or spend minutes staring at it perplexed. Having a variety to choose from lets me say ‘nope, not today’ to one puzzle and try another which was welcome. Add together decent controller controls (I preferred controller over keyboard/mouse), a clean aesthetic and a chillout soundtrack and it’s one of those games that is challenging your brain but effortless to play.
Abridge is another game to add to my ‘great puzzlers for under £5’ collection that Steam and Itch.io cater for so very well. Anyone who enjoys Sokoban or clean, minimalistic puzzle games will find joy here. Add it to the solo dev gem set. Out now on Steam and Itch.io.
Review copy provided by developer.
Abridge is a clever and succinct Sokoban puzzler that rewards planning and forward-thinking as you shuffle yourself out of tight spaces. A great example of budget puzzling.
Clear and easy to understand rules, creatively transposed into good level design.
Decent keyboard/mouse and controller controls.
Puzzles unlock in groups allowing you to take on the game in sections and stopping inevitable brain barriers from occurring that stop progression.
Lovely minimalistic and clean graphics and chilled soundtrack.
If you struggle with Sokoban styled puzzle games, this might not be an easy entry point?
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