Patrick’s Parabox Review: Box clever

MINDS, prepare to get blown. Or rather, break. Or melted. Still, be ready with the headache pills.

atrick’s Parabox is one of those amazing puzzle games that looks so simple but hides a devilish level of brain-twitching. First impressions are reminiscent of a very elementary translation into the physical world of the old sliding block puzzles that later became the video game’s variant of Sokoban. The presentation couldn’t be any less complex: a 2D layer and no-frills graphics.

It starts with an irregularly shaped box containing a few small squares and asks you to shuffle them around until they rest on the seed blocks. They can only push, not pull, so pushing them against walls limits their movement. But, hey, you got that, no problem.

Then indie developer Patrick Traynor (yes, he seems to have named his game after himself, along with that awful pun in the title!) pulls the rug from under your complacency by bringing his big idea – recursion, or the concept of a – brings in object that affects another version of itself.

We’ve recently seen the term in recursive games like Maquette and Superliminal that played with perspective and minor/major doubles. Traynor takes abstraction and smashes our heads with it – but as if we were a lobster in a slow-heating pot, he does it stealthily and gently.

First, he introduces blocks within blocks: slide one inside the other where appropriate and the screen will expand to reveal the new play area, allowing you to re-manipulate the shapes within. Oh, if only it were that complicated.

Like the clever lab rat, you quickly learn how to navigate this recursive space, and then Traynor subtly rewrites the rules all over again. Soon you’ll be dealing with shadow versions of the blocks, infinite boxes, and mirrored rooms. It’s like Christopher Nolan’s film Inception, only about 10 times as deep.

But Patrick’s parabox somehow stays on the right side of the confusing. Maybe it’s because Traynor doesn’t overwhelm the player with fresh rules in every area. It groups levels in stacks of around 20 each, which teaches and reinforces the recursions while offering optional missions that increase the difficulty.

With more than 350 puzzles to chew on, the challenge curve inevitably increases as you hit the hundreds. Step away from your computer for a few minutes when you get stuck and you’ll find yourself mentally experimenting with moves or wondering where exactly you missed the key action that could unlock the solution.

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With Patrick’s Parabox, Traynor has created an incredibly clever and personable puzzler. It’s the kind of deceptively simple premise that’s just begging to be ported to mobile devices, too. But don’t wait, Patrick’s Parabox is now ready to fry your brains. Patrick’s Parabox Review: Box clever

Fry Electronics Team

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