Review: Resco Sokoban

Sokoban 3dWe all know Resco from their superb Resco Explorer, and most also know them from their Photo Viewer and Keyboard Pro. Less people know that they also have an excellent Sudoku game (with skin support). In fact, Resco has quite some games, some of which are new, some of which are old. One of those older games (but still actively developed) is Resco Sokoban.

Resco’s implementation of this traditional game includes various characters, lots of levels, a level editor, save/load, and the ability to play in 2d or 3d mode.

Installation and trial info

Sometimes I try to avoid this subject, because there is nothing special to say here. However, for Resco Sokoban, some things are different from what we see in for most Pocket PC software. On the Resco website, only a .exe installer is available. If you run that form your desktop PC, you are given the choice to only install the game, or to also install the sound files. In the full version after purchasing, you can also install the level editor. If you include the sound, the size of the game will of course increase. Storage is not really a problem these days when it comes to relatively small game, but if you don’t use the sound – why install it? The game and the sound are packed in different installations, so on your Pocket PC you will have to run through an installation procedure for both the game, and the sound. The level editor is installed to the desktop PC, not the Pocket PC.
On the Resco website there are also Extra’s available. These include new characters, environments, and 1165 new levels, in addition to the 100 basic levels already in the game by default. This Extra’s package is also downloadable as one single .exe installer, but during installation you can again select which parts you want to install. For each part, a seperate installation will be run on the Pocket PC.

Sokoban Install Sokoban Extra’s

Resco Sokoban, when downloaded from the website, runs as a demo. This means that there is no time limit, but only the first four levels can be played. You can test the options, characters, gameplay, 3d mode, and save/load functionality, but you can’t progress to new warehouses in later levels or create and upload custom levels. For this you will need to purchase the full version, which will be a seperate installer. So no registration key to enter, you’ll have to archive the installation file on your desktop to make sure you can access it later, or check your software store for their re-download policy.

The game

Sokoban Level 1“Sokoban” translates to “warehouse keeper”, which is exactly what your character in this game is. In the default view you will see a maze top-down, and your goal is to push crates in the warehouse to the destination fields which are clearly marked on the warehouse ground/playing field. In Resco Sokoban though, you can also play in a graphically more appealing (but traditionally less fulfilling) 3d mode. The crates can only be pushed, which is done by walking against them. They will then be moved in the same direction as you are going. Sokoban’s main strong point is that it is very easy to pick up, as can be seen in the first level of Resco Sokoban on the right. Simply push the crate one space to the right, and you’ve completed the easiest level in the world!

Sokoban 3dThe problem and challenge lies in the fact that levels get increasingly more difficult. The screen to the right shows the fourth level of the demo, in 3d mode. As you can see, all crates have to be pushed onto the yellow marked squares in the bottom left. But the path leading to the destination section is only one square wide with some intersections, so navigating your way through the right passages gets a lot tougher. And when you add to that the fact that you always have to be at the correct side of the crate to move it in the desired direction, which must not be blocked by anything else, you’ll have the full Sokoban challenge.

Okay, let’s take a look at what we see on the screen besides the warehouse, crates, and the character. First of all, at the top we see three counters. The first one counts your moves, the amount of steps you make. The second one counts the amount of times you’ve pushed a crate. There will soon be a difference between these numbers, because you will have to walk through the level without moving crates quite a lot, in order to make sure you’re in the correct position to get the crate to one of the destination fields.
The last counter is a clock, which times how long you take to complete a level. Highscores for these are saved and can be compared to the best online score. The help file makes me think that this is automatically obtained from the internet, hopefully through my ActiveSync connection.

Then there are, by default, three icons in the top right corner. A minimize and close button, which features confused me at the beginning. The Minimize button totally closes the game, while the X button brings you back to the main menu screen. I would have expected the X to close and the Minimize to do something less powerful, but it’s the other way around. The arrow pointing to the left can be tapped to open up the toolbar with additional buttons. From top to bottom, this toolbar lets you switch between 2d/3d view, restart the level, quicksave a level, reload, and undo your latest moves.

Control can be done with the stylus or with the D-Pad, and I think that with such precise movement D-Pad is the better option (even though I really like how stylus control works, we’ll get to that). There are various settings to optimize your D-Pad control experience (which will be discussed in a moment as well). A final note: if you’re playing large levels in 3D mode, not everything will fit on the screen. You can then simply slide the screen with the stylus to make the hidden part of the level visible.

Sokoban MainMenu screens and options

I usually discuss the menu screens first, but I figure that readers are probably most interested in the actual game first, and only then in the other noteworthy things, so let me move to those now.

When first starting the game, you will be just outside the warehouse, and the menu will be to the left of the screen. The first item here is New Game.

Sokoban LevelselectThere you can pick the level set at the total top, by tapping the arrows left and right. In the demo, only one level set is available. Obviously the full version includes several level packs with 10, 50 and 40 levels.
The levels inside such a level set, are displayed in the large box in the middle of the screen. Again there are arrows to the side to browse through the available levels. The first line displays that this is the fourth level from a total of four, and that it’s called Classic First. The lock is open, meaning that we can play the game. When creating a custom level pack, you can choose to lock levels, so that players need to finish the previous levels before they can access a level.
Then your highscore for the level is displayed, along with the highscore which is taken from the internet.

Sokoban CharacterThe next three options in the main menu allow you to quickly load your previously saved QuickSave game (you can map QuickSave to a hardware button or access it from the quicksave button in the game), load a single level created with the level editor (entire warehouses can be accessed through New Game), and select your character.
Additional characters are available through the Extra’s package which you can get on the Resco website (click here). For example, you can play with this LEGO guy!
As you can see the style of the menu screens all fit very well in the warehouse theme that Sokoban is all about.

Sokoban OptionsNext up are the Options. On the upper half you can redefine the hardware buttons used for the various in-game actions. As you can see here, there can be a button assigned to “Rotate” which will rotate the playing field for you so that, especially in 3D mode, you can view things from a different angle.
The sound and music bars are pretty self explanatory I think. Slide them to the right to increase volume, and get them to the far left to mute all in-game sound and music. But why wouldn’t you just uninstall the sounds then? Running the game without the sounds is perfectly possible, then the sound and music section will be greyed out and can be tweaked.
The bottom section allows you to run the game in landscape mode, and Resco also thinks about left handed people. Rotational movement changes the D-Pad actions. Normally, pressing left will move your character to the left. With rotational movement enabled, pressing left or right will change the direction you are facing 90 degrees, so that walking is always done with the up key.
Single step movement means that you cannot hold a button to keep walking in that direction. This can be useful, because I found that when you want to move one space up and then go into a corridor to the left, I press UP with my right thumb, and LEFT with my left thumb, already before I lifted my right thumb off the UP key. This caused a specific issue, because instead of going to the left, my guy kept walking upwards and only turned left when it hit the wall (and could no longer go forward)! Just try for yourself which movement mode fits best for you.
Enabling Stylus movement control will disable the two options above, because they are obviously irrelevant for stylus control. Stylus control is pretty cool, because you can then just select any field on the warehouse floor, and your character will automatically walk there while avoiding crates! A green path will be displayed to show you his route. Your character won’t be able to push any crates along the way, you can do that by tapping on the crate you want to move, when you’re standing next to it. Pretty neat!

Sokoban HelpThe item before Exit is called Help, and it takes you to a very detailed Help file. It is structured nicely, and contains details on every part of the game. No need to read a user manual on the desktop PC, you have the user manual with you on the go!

Level Editor

You’ll never have to be without levels. After purchasing the full version of Resco Sokoban you can install the level editor to your PC, where you can create custom levels. The level editor is easy to use, and very complete. From the menu bar in the top you can import and export levels, change the grid size, create new warehouses etcetera, and from the toolbar at the left you can select the tiles you want to place in the level. All tiles speak for themself, excepr for perhaps the Box home and Player home. These simply create a home field for a box, with a box or player already on it. It’s quite possible that the box on the home will have to be moved during the level in order to solve it – for example, the box on the home could be blocking a necessary intersection.
On the right you can change the name and soundtrack for the level, and when you’re done simply send it to your device using the button at the lower right!

Sokoban leveleditor

Conclusion

Sokoban is a very entertaining way to keep your brain active. As I said in the introduction, it’s easy to pick up, but the levels can become seriously challenging. So therefore it is very nice to play such a game in a graphically well-designed surrounding, knowing that a decent company is responsible for it’s development. The only problem I encountered was that I couldn’t change directions while I was trying to keep walking, but since there are various movement ways everyone should be able to find a control method that works for him or her, even though I would like “my way” to work as well. Currently I sometimes need to undo my last step because of this. I need to say that Resco couldn’t reproduce this, so perhaps it’s specific to my device.
I was impressed by all the extra’s Resco put in this game. Because there are freeware alternatives, Resco had to put in some special things to make it worth the money. Not only do you get a level editor, you can also change the warehouse layout and the character. various extra’s come with the game which can all be installed and uninstalled seperately. This is not a minor point: if you don’t like the sounds or if you have finished one of the additional level packs, you can simply uninstall it and it will no longer take up space on your device!

I really like puzzle games, but Sokoban has never really made me addicted. Some days I like to play many levels in a row, but a mood like that doesn’t stay for days. But no matter if you’re a casual or a regular Sokoban player, having Resco Sokoban on your device makes it a lot more accessible so that if you want to challenge my brain, you can simply launch Resco Sokoban and be confident that you’ll have a very feature-filled and enjoyable Sokoban experience.

Name: Resco Sokoban
By: Resco
Version: 2.11
Compatibility: Pocket PC, Smartphone, and a free version for Windows XP/2000 as Christmas present!
Price: $19.95
Download Resco Sokoban and the extra’s here or purchase here.

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