Hey guys, you know what’s fun? Video games! You know what’s generally not so fun? Chemistry! Well, that’s not entirely true, but what if the video game is about chemistry? Welcome to Sokobond!
Although no chemistry knowledge is required to play, Sokobond is a puzzle game in which you’ll form chemical bonds between atoms and their electrons, thus creating chemical compounds. Puzzles are laid out on a grid with atoms of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon placed in specific locations. You start each puzzle in control of one atom, each of which containing their own set number of bonding electrons, and move it around the grid to form a specific compound. Moving an atom near another with a free bonding electron will bond the two together for the remainder of the puzzle.
It all boils down to moving and controlling atoms in such a way that you can bond them correctly -while not getting stuck on the grid- and successfully forming a chemical compound. While that may sound complicated, Sokobond‘s excellent pacing will help you learn the ropes of the physical science, eventually introducing new mechanics just as you start to feel comfortable.
If you don’t feel like thinking in scientific terms, each circle has a set amount of dots, and each dot represents the amount of atoms it can bond with. Bonding an atom also blends in specific tones with the background music, adding a subtle hint of atmosphere that just happens to exist. It’s there if you manage to catch it, and when I did it was a cool thing to experience, but it’s nothing loud or obnoxious that’ll throw you off your game.
Completing a compound rewards you with interesting factoids. For instance, did you know that 1 liter of pure hydrogen peroxide can release over 300 liters of pure oxygen? Or that water expands at about 9% when frozen, and with great force? Now you do! Exactly which compound you’ll be creating is unknown to the player, unless, of course you have a background in chemistry. Otherwise it requires a bit of trial and error on your part, which can be a bit of a struggle on the later puzzles.
While I really, really enjoyed my time with Sokobond, and may go as far as saying it’s one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played, I feel the need to mention that the later portion of the game is relatively difficult. I love being challenged in puzzle games, as that’s generally the reason I play them, but if you’re the type that frustrates easy you might find the game less enjoyable as time goes on. I, on the other hand, know very little about chemistry and couldn’t put the game down for 3 days.
Its clear presentation and simplistic gameplay should favor its future touch-screen mobile/iOS release, but Sokobond controls just fine on the PC with either a keyboard or an Xbox 360 controller. If you make a mistake while playing, you can rewind one move at a time if you think you’re on to something, or reset the entire puzzle with the press of a button.
Sokobond is an accessibly smart puzzle game, even if you’re not a fan of the physical science it’s based around. Sure, it becomes quite difficult toward the end, but it’ll pace you along until you grasp everything it has to offer. In a game about moving atoms along a grid while you form chemical compounds, it’s definitely a lot more fun than it sounded on paper, but I can see some of the later puzzles preventing some of the player base from completing the game. Like all good puzzle games though, it’s equal parts challenging and entertaining. Give it a shot and you may not only find yourself enjoying it, but having a new-found appreciation for chemistry, puzzle games, or both!
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications. He’s an aspiring video game journalist, Baltimore native, and a diehard Orioles fan that favors roguelikes, horror games, and point-and-click adventures. His favorite console is the Dreamcast, favorite game is the original Metroid, and he could watch The Goonies for the rest of his life. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow his insanity on Twitter.