Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'SOKO-BAN LINE'

Rating:5 User: Digital Prawn

Not only have I had a long interest in Sokoban games but I also co-authored quite a few one-liner programs with Einar Saukas. Therefore, I find this title particularly fascinating. (To elucidate, one-liner programs consist of a single line of BASIC and must fit completely on a single Spectrum 48K screen such that they don't "scroll?" when listed). Here we have a set of one-liner programs which I had no involvement in the development of and so hopefully I can write an unbiased review!

Ten small Sokoban levels are provided. The first one was designed by the author of the program, Einar Saukas and the remaining nine were desgined by Yoshio Murase. Whilst these levels are necessarily small due to one-liner limitations, their small size in fact leads to what I shall describe as "the highest form of distilled Sokoban". Some Sokoban levels in other full sized games may consist of a large number of blocks and even when the puzzle has been mentally solved by the player, there may still be several hundred moves remaining in order to physically complete the level. Here though we have no more than four blocks per screen (most have just three), yet the difficulty level is impressively high for such small screens and the highest possible proportion of playing time is spent really "racking your brains" rather than repeatedly pushing a large number of blocks around. You will certainly be thinking whilst playing this "How can such a simple looking layout be so tricky to solve?", "How can I be stuck on this screen for so long?" and things like this.

As someone who completed the "standard 50" Sokoban levels found on UNIX systems and in the Spectrum Holobyte MS-DOS version some time ago, I thought I was a pretty good Sokoban player - smugly knowing all of the common tricks etc.. However, this small set of games provided by "SOKO-BAN LINE" taught me that there are even more difficult Sokoban layouts possible that I'd never encountered before. Admittedly, it took me while to finish the ten levels of this game today. But when I had finished them, it felt like a real sense of achievement.

On the technical side, the one-liner code is flawless. I know from experience that fitting UDGs and even sound into a one-liner program reduces the available number of character positions remaining for game logic. The fact that Sokoban could be implemented at all in a one-liner is impressive enough, but doing it with multicoloured user-defined graphics and sound surely is a most incredible achievement.

So in summary this one-liner puzzle game has everything - it's a genuinley tough logical challenge, which is no pushover to complete. At the same time it must rank as the absolute pinnacle of one-liner coding achievements on the ZX-Spectrum. To award it any less than five would be to sorely underestimate the technical ingenuity and creative flair of this title. Obviously, it won't score a five for people who don't like Sokoban, or maybe even those who do not like "one-liners" but for those who do enjoy these challenging things, this is absolutely top drawer stuff.