Patrick's Parabox (2022)
Developer: Patrick Traynor
Am I starting to become a Steam Deck-exclusive gamer? Possibly. I can say that my purchasing choices are now heavily influenced on whether a game is Steam Deck playable or not, as was the case with Patrick's Parabox. As much as I enjoy puzzle games, it's rare that I pick up a new puzzle game grabs my attention. I tend to find a lot of them very similar to one another, but I love to see a new challenger that stands out from the rest. Patrick's Parabox is a minimalist-looking puzzle game full of mind-bending, recursive box puzzles. Patrick's Parabox is provides hours of satisfying and challenging puzzle-solving, but it sometimes fails to explain its logic and its style is at times too simplistic.
In Patrick's Parabox, you almost always play as a a little red or pink box. The only controls you use to solve a level are the arrows, whether it's to move around or to push boxes. The goal is generally to end up with your character box is a specific indicated place on the level, and sometimes also with other boxes in their indicated spots. Getting there will involve pushing boxes into other boxes, out of other boxes, or some other interesting combination. It starts to get really trippy when you realize that you too, are a box, and therefore sometimes you need to put a box inside yourself - or a box outside the level itself. You'll progress through several different areas, each with levels following a new skill or theme. The game allows you to learn the new trick and then steps up by giving you more difficult levels to really test you. You can choose to solve all the levels in an area, or just the required ones in order to move on the next one.
The art style Patrick's Parabox is extremely simplistic - which mostly works well in a game like this where it's more about the gameplay and being able to see things clearly. However, it does make the game a little less loveable and enticing, as its aesthetic gets told pretty quickly. It's probably not fair to compare this game to Baba is You, one of my favorite puzzle games ever, but I did find that even within its simplicity, Baba is You has a defining and memorable style to it. I feel similarly about the music of Patrick's Parabox as I do about the art style. It's got fun, low-key electronic songs that will go with the level or area, but they do get really repetitive after a while. You don't really end up focusing on the music too much, and you could really play this game with your own music in the background.
Patrick's Parabox does a decent job of explaining how to solve puzzles by just placing you in a new environment, at least in the beginning. In a closed room with only a few boxes, you'll have a chance to experiment and see what happens when you move different things. You learn by trying, and you can easily undo moves or restart the level at the click of a button. This game is decently challenging, although I actually expected it to be more from what I'd heard about it. I am pleased with this level of difficulty, though, because I was able to beat the game, including the challenge levels, without looking anything up. However, there are definitely still post-game levels that I'm currently working through since those are quite tricky. When it came to later puzzles that introduced new ideas, sometimes the logic just didn't quite make sense but you could sort of figure out how to solve it by following an established set of rules. I felt at times that I didn't really "understand" what the game wanted me to get about what I needed to do, but I knew enough about how the previous levels were solved to make a good guess. I guess what I'm saying is that this game spent a lot of time trying to be mind-bending in ways that sort of didn't make sense.
Patrick's Parabox is a good time for anyone who enjoys unique puzzles that you can really lose track of time with for long periods of time. It's not too challenging, I think anyone who gets into it could probably beat the game, since the challenge levels are optional. It's the perfect game to play on the go on a handheld console, as you can jump right to where you left off when you start the game. I recommend it for sure, but I do wish it had a little more of a distinctive style to it and a little more clarity when it comes to how its most bizarre puzzles work.
Patrick's Parabox is available on PC
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 20 hrs