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Recursive puzzler Patrick's Parabox flaunts boxes within boxes within boxes

Patrick’s Parabox is too smart for me. Granted, regular Sokoban is often too smart for me, but thanks to a very simple concept, Patrick Traynor’s recursive boxes are creating mazes within mazes – tiles that transcend dimensions as my headache turns into a full-blown migraine. While he’s not ready to unleash his Paraboxes onto the public, you can catch his puzzles in a new trailer posted this week.

The preview build I checked out (provided by Traynor) starts predictably enough. Regular old block-puzzles, pushing cubes around a small maze. “Yup,” I thought. “That’s Sokoban.”

But you don’t win an IGF by simply copying a time-worn puzzle concept. So once you’re accustomed to the very basics, Patrick introduces the star of the show – hollow boxes that, when pushed against a wall, will swallow you into their own micro-puzzle.

The way special boxes are introduced is deftly handled. You’re lured into pushing these tiles into obvious dead-ends – only you keep going, breaking yourself out of a seemingly impossible situation by looping around inside one of Patrick’s eponymous Paraboxes. Things quickly ramp up, too. Goals are placed inside recursive rooms, forcing you to start considering puzzles on two layers, then three, then four or more.

It’s the sort of intuitive design space that led to Patrick’s Parabox winning the IGF’s Excellence in Design Award earlier this year. It’s also the sorta thing that quickly goes way, way over my head. In the trailer, we eventually see puzzles that loop within themselves, pushing you outside the playspace by diving further into a level’s recursive warehouse.

Even if the art isn’t quite hitting me, there’s a lovely, mellow soundscape framing your box-diving – one that evokes Holedown‘s chill space-acid vibes. Patrick’s Parabox doesn’t currently have a release date, but you can follow its development over on Steam.

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Natalie Clayton

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