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Void Stranger, out now, looks like a wonderful Game Boy nightmare

Top sokobantz.

A screenshot of sokoban-style puzzle game Void Stranger, showing the silhouette of a woman lying against a labyrinthine pattern, with the words "So be it!" at the bottom.
Image credit: System Erasure

I don't have any firsthand insight to share on Void Stranger, which surprise-released on Friday, but when I read words like "forgotten labyrinth" and "traps that defy reason", I find myself reaching for my pen and inkwell, and when I encounter visuals that remind me of the nastier Zelda dungeons on Game Boy, I start vibrating gently in my chair, and when I see monochrome anime story scenes set to howling guitar and fuzzy chip tunes - well, here we are.

Void Stranger is the work of Finnish indie System Erasure, whose vertically scrolling shmup/mystery game ZeroRanger was one of Dominic Tarason's (RPS in peace) best games of 2018. The new title is a sokoban-style puzzle game, which is to say, it's broadly about shoving crates around, but as the name suggests, Void Stranger has bigger ambitions than helping you while away five minutes over lunch. It's a game of faith, amnesia and devilry, which reportedly portions out its secrets across multiple playthroughs. Here's a trailer.

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Early Steam reader verdicts are encouraging, or at least alarming in a good way. "Wide as a puddle, deeper than the Marianas Trench," reads one of them. "Simple mechanics with more secrets than you can imagine. I'm currently on New Game Plus Plus and the story is still going."

The original Sokoban was released way back in 1982 by Hiroyuki Imabayashi. I've not really investigated this genre before, but I sense that I've brushed against it while playing games like Chunsoft's Mystery Dungeon. It seems there's a lot to plunge into, there - the University of Alberta in Canada has a whole webpage devoted to the game.

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