Have You Played… Sokobond?

Vinegar! (Acetic acid: CH3CO2H)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Here’s a lovely game about building molecules correctly.

Sokobond is by Alan Hazelden (A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build) and Harry Lee (Stickets) and it is very much My Kind Of Thing.

What you do is you move an atom around so that it can bond with other atoms in the correct manner to form the molecule designated by the puzzle. The information that it uses as the basis for the puzzles is based on actual molecular chemistry, but knowledge of that chemistry is not required from the player. Instead you’re expected to observe a few basic rules regarding making and breaking connections and moving round the space, then left to solve the levels, creating the molecules as a byproduct of that solution.

It’s a beautiful game, stuffed with elegant little puzzles which get into your brain and lodge there until you find a solution.

17 Comments

  1. sicbanana says:

    Hmm, reminds me a bit of Atomix…
    link to archive.org

    • SuddenSight says:

      My write-up of the differences remains relevant, so I will copy-paste from the previous time this game was mentioned:

      “I have no affiliation with the Dev and I have played both games.

      While they share a theme (it is exactly the same theme), the actual gameplay is completely different. Here is a short summary:

      Atomix and KAtomic (linked below) have sliding atoms (they keep going until they collide with something) and the atoms do not stick together. To win a level you must arrange the atoms in the precise configuration and orientation requested. At any point you can control any atom.

      In Sokobond you only ever get to control one atom, but the atoms stick together after bonding so you can “drag” the others around with you. Orientation is irrelevant in Sokobon (only connectivity matters). Sokobond also introduces a number of stage-specific elements that only make sense when dragging around multiple elements (“rotate” corners, “break bond” and “add bond” nodes) as well as blocks that do not take part in the final composition (the noble gases).

      In summary: the games have precisely the same theme, but the actual gameplay is as different as you can get (for both being Sokobond derivatives).

      Edit: forgot to include my actual opinion. Both games are excellent. One is free, one is cheap, play them all.”

  2. Alan Hazelden says:

    Hey, that’s my game! :)

    I’m hard at work finishing A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build right now, but I’ll dip into these comments now and then to answer questions if anyone has any! Suggested topics: puzzle games, making snowmen, my favourite molecules, why Atomix is a bad puzzle game and Sokobond is hopefully a good one, the importance of getting 8 hours sleep a day.

    • Nefa says:

      Thank you so much for making this game. I’m quite into puzzle games and absolutely love Sokobond.

      I am also passionate about Chemistry, so messing with molecules was great. I’d love to see more puzzle games featuring science-ish elements. I guess another game I could think of which did something similar was Splice.

      Sokobond I enjoyed because 1) chemistry (even if the bonding element is simplified to the 2d plane, I think 3d would be much more difficult) 2) the harder puzzles were doable without being extremely frustrating. The game doesn’t penalize you for making a mistake and actively working on a puzzle is enjoyable. The way it allows you to access multiple puzzles at once also helps avoid getting stuck on one board – which is great.

      So, thanks again for making this! So awesome! :D

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Sounds like you might enjoy Spacechem as well. Definitely check it out; it’s brilliant!

      • Alan Hazelden says:

        Thanks, I’m so glad you like it :D

      • Person of Interest says:

        1) Yes, Sokobond in 3D please! I would love to play a good 3D block-building puzzler. The mechanics of English Country Tune frustrated me, and… gee, the last 3D puzzle I can remember enjoying is from The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain.

        2) Yes, the puzzles in Sokobond were perfectly designed to split my time between: a) figuring out what my options are, b) eliminating options that don’t work in practice, and c) maneuvering the molecules in the right sequence. Many of the puzzles required 10-20 minutes of fiddling and resetting, before I had an “a-ha” moment, and solved it 10 seconds later. It’s supremely satisfying.

        Now, what’s this about a metapuzzle?

        • Alan Hazelden says:

          I loved English Country Tune, but in general 3D puzzles are really awkward to make good I think. Not gonna try any time soon I don’t think!

          Who said anything about metapuzzles?

          • Person of Interest says:

            Your ability to erase things from the Internet is impressive (ish). I could have sworn I saw you give a great talk on a panel at PAX Prime 2013, but there’s no record of you presenting in the PAX guidebook. Well, thanks for that nonetheless!

          • Alan Hazelden says:

            Yeah we were in the PAX10 that year with Sokobond, so I was on one of the PAX10 panels.

            Oh, whatever. The point is that Harry Lee definitely didn’t hide anything in the game.

    • frugtug says:

      Atomix is one of those games that I remember fondly, because it made my head hurt. But I have not played Sokobond yet – it looked way too similar (and had no Albert Einstein in the trailer). Can you elaborate what Atomix does wrong (apart from messing the first puzzle by making water molecule collinear) and how Sokobond improves on it?

      • Alan Hazelden says:

        So if the incorrect bond angles annoyed you in Atomix, you probably won’t get on much better with Sokobond! There’s only 90-degree angles, which is basically what you get with a game played on a grid…

        I wrote a little about my annoyances with Atomix over here, where there’s a set of levels which use the Atomix mechanics but trying to apply my design sensibilities to them. I think comparing those levels to the original Atomix levels, you can get a feel for what makes me frustrated about the level design.

        The big difference though is in the mechanics themselves. Sokobond is superficially similar but completely different to actually play: just like SpaceChem is also a grid-based chemistry puzzle game but the gameplay is very distinct also!

        I find the Atomix mechanics don’t allow for much variety in level design: most levels feel pretty much the same. And that’s fine if you want an experience to waste time mindlessly on. But it’s not the kind of game I want to make myself! I’d rather make a game where you need to use different tricks to beat each level, where you’re constantly learning interesting consequences of the way things interact. And that is, I hope, what Sokobond is.

        • frugtug says:

          Thanks for the answer. I played through your Atomix level pack – it was 20 minutes which were far from “mindless fun” – and hey, your water molecule does bend correctly! You are right in saying that the smaller levels make for much more focused puzzles. Your puzzles are more about positioning the atoms correctly, then about moving them around. I must also admit that I have been associating Sokobond too much with Sokoban (which uses one mechanic throughout, and is about moving items around, like Atomix is). I guess I have no choice now but to pick up Sokobond next time it goes on sale! ;)

  3. LTK says:

    I have definitely played it, the last time I started it up was a week ago and before that I’d left it untouched for at least a month. The puzzles become grueling about halfway through, and are way harder than they have any right to be given that there just can’t be that many possible moves on such a small board! It’s rather good though.

    Stuff like Fetch, Airplane and Stuck are beyond my capabilities and I don’t think I’ll ever finish this game.

  4. Joshua Northey says:

    Looks good, I think I will pick it up.

  5. Continuity says:

    Looks great, on my wish list for the next time I fancy a new puzzler.

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    Harlander says:

    … should there be a link in there somewhere?