Patrick’s Parabox review: a super smart puzzler of infinite depth
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The four-sided heroes of Patrick’s Parabox and Wilmot’s Warehouse would be great friends, I think. They both specialise in the placement and movement of boxes, and they both share the same cheery disposition. Sure, Patrick may not have the same pointy nose or cheeky smile of his mate Wilmot, but the way his eyes rove from side to side as he wiggles to the beat of Priscilla Snow’s meditative and upbeat electronic soundtrack is surely a sign of someone who is truly in love with what they do.
If anything, I reckon Wilmot would be a wee bit jealous of Patrick. You see, in Patrick’s line of work, his cubes contain multitudes, to misquote that famous Walt Whitman line. As long as they’re resting against a hard surface, cubes can be packed into other cubes in Patrick’s Parabox like a stack of matryoshka dolls. They can also be unpacked in the same way, allowing him to navigate the tight constraints of his respective puzzle arenas with surprising dexterity. It’s like he’s discovered the TARDIS of sokoban-style cube-pushing, if you will, and cor, just imagine what Wilmot could do with such technology. That warehouse would be immaculate.
That’s not to say Patrick’s Parabox is an easy sokoban puzzler, mind. Like Bonfire Peaks and A Monster’s Expedition before it, this is a box-pushing puzzle game that really flexes those little grey cells. Indeed, the game’s own tips section warns that these puzzles are “meant to be challenging” and that there’s “no expectation of solving them quickly”. There’s a lot of them, too. Of the 350+ puzzles crammed into this seemingly infinite universe of boxes within boxes, I’ve unlocked around 100 so far, and solved around 75 of them – and even then there’s a good proportion of that 75 that I’ve been requested not to talk about for fear of spoiling some of its surprises.
What I will say, though, is that despite only being a third of the way through so far, Patrick’s Parabox is an absolute delight, delivering a string of lightbulb moments that surprise and excite in equal measure. I have never felt more energised playing a sokoban puzzler, and the places it goes to (intentionally, and by accident) calls to mind the same kind of ‘ah ha’ moments as playing The Witness and Return Of The Obra Dinn. I know we’re only a quarter of the way through 2022 so far, but I’m calling it now: this is without doubt going to be one of the smartest games you’ll play all year.
There’s a main ‘path’ to follow, so to speak, where each of its worlds within worlds cleverly builds on a central idea and mechanic, teaching you the basics of movement and its recursive box-manoeuvring before shifting gear to some truly mind-bending paradoxes. Completing these core puzzles also unlocks special bonus rooms that push the world’s thematic concepts even further, marked out by their somewhat ominous red outlines. You don’t need to complete these extra rooms to progress to the next world, you’ll be pleased to hear, but they do count toward your goal total for that world (just in case the regular ones stump you for a spell), and they’re also just great fun, often requiring some truly out of the box thinking (sorry) to complete.
I’ll admit, many of these harder puzzles required a fair bit of trial and error before I landed on the correct solution, but the beauty of Patrick’s Parabox is that rarely falls into that interminable trap of making you feel like a dunce smashing their head against a wall ad infinitum (I’m looking at you, Baba). That’s partly down to its intuitive controls. Patrick himself is mapped to the arrow keys (or d-pad on a controller), but there are also dedicated keys for undo, redo and a complete, instant reset, giving you the same speed and efficiency as tearing out a page of a notebook or rubbing out fevered scribbling if you need to try again or correct a mistake. The immediacy of it all is intensely satisfying, offering plenty of room to play and experiment as you figure things out. Heck, there’s even an option to unlock every single puzzle so you can just have at it and sample everything the game has to offer if you prefer – which is quite possibly the most generous thing I’ve seen in a puzzle game ever.
Mostly, though, it’s just the sheer brilliance of Patrick’s puzzles that makes it stand out. There’s just so much to admire and delight in here, and lemme tell you, the puzzles I can’t talk about are just chefkiss.gif genius. Truly wonderful stuff. Just when you think you’ve got the measure of where this box shuffler’s going, it pulls the recursive rug out from under you and captivates you all over again. Given what we’re dealing with here, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this is an infinitely pleasing puzzle game. If I were Wilmot, I’d be green with envy.