I love puzzle games but I'm not terribly smart so I find them playing them to be an odd mixture of relaxing and taxing. Daisy Games has pumped out 5 commercial games to date: Hack Grid, Dark Sheep, Dark Crypt, Sokobos, and Sokochess - but there'salso more coming, with Sokochess White set to release in a few weeks. I know what you're thinking - to pump out so many games they must be short little vignettes but you couldn't be more wrong. Each game boasts at least 60 levels, often substantially more - and that's before counting the extra levels that come with the DLC. And I have to hand it to Daisy, he's done a spectacular job of managing the difficulty curve, where the game starts very simply but gradually gets harder - but then drops back to become simpler again as new mechanics are added (usually every 5-10 levels), and then gradually more difficult again as you master them. Each of Daisy's games has a totally different visual theme, although like most puzzle games they're all minimalist. Each game also features a range of Quality of Life features above and beyond what we have any right to expect with undo/redo, level skipping, optional mouse/keyboard controls, jukebox, and even colourblind modes. One of my favourite things about Dark Sheep, Dark Crypt, and Sokobos is that they also feature a story - unusual for puzzle games, and a very welcome addition. But that's not even the best bit. I'm totally blown away at how Daisy has managed to continuously add new mechanics and layers of mechanics, totally reinventing the genre not once but several times so the experience never feels tired or repetitive. And that's why Daisy Games is probably my favourite puzzle game developer.
Five Fast Facts
What's the first video game you can remember playing?
When I was a little boy around the age of 4, my parents and my grandpa showed me what a computer is for the very first time. Not only that but there was Spear of Destiny (Wolfenstein 3D's first expansion pack) running on it. I sat to down and got hooked instantly, I loved the Sound blaster 16 sounds and music.
Who would win in a fight? Cujo or the Nemean lion?
One does not simply mess with Cujo.
Can you touch your toes without bending your knees?
I don't think I can touch them even with bending my knees. I really should stretch more.
How many sausage rolls do you think Ryu could eat in one sitting?
Not as much as my mom.
What's the tallest building you've ever been in?
Probably Baťa's "skyscraper" in Zlín, it's 77,5 meters tall. Sadly the view from there is kinda ruined by the fence they put up because God forgot to turn off fall damage.
Want to know more? A while back, Daisy Games joined me, Twintertainment, RD Interactive, and RBOR Games in a huge collaborative interview where we discussed puzzle game design philosophy in great detail. If you're interested, you can check that out here.
Theme: Retro hacking
Levels: 90 (base game) + 40 (Master Levels)
I think a lot of people might have complained about Hack Grid's aesthetics but I actually like them. Retro almost-but-not-quite vector art, designed to be reminiscent of DOS. For a puzzle game themed on hacking. Fine with me! This starts as a very simple game; all you have to do is slide the pieces into each other along some circuits until only one remains - but every ~ten levels a new mechanic is added. Some pieces become stationary, some are different colours, some can change colour - and synergy between these interactions is cleverly built into the levels so the puzzles actually become quite complex as you play through. Also, this is one huge puzzle game with 90 levels!
And if that somehow isn't enough for you, you can also buy the "Master Levels" DLC, which adds another whole chapter with 40 new levels. Ridiculous!
Theme: The occult!
Levels: 60 (base game) + 30 (Master Chapter DLC)
Another sokoban game with retro visuals but this one's modelled to look and sound like a Commodore 64 game. It features a totally different theme; you're a cultist! This is predominantly a sokoban game like any other but with several mechanical twists which make it interesting - including guards which you will need to murder to get to the sheep! I've never played a puzzle game quite like it.
The Aftermath Update is worth a special mention. If you played Dark Sheep but it was a while ago? You need to go back and check it out again. Aftermath's a sequel that picks up where the base story finished, adding more to the story (you won't see it coming!) and 20 levels (bringing it to a total of 60), along with even more new mechanics.
Like Hack Grid, Dark Sheep also offers a "Master Chapter" DLC which adds another 30 levels!
Theme: Fantasy horror
The most visibly impressive and also the most complex of Daisy's games (so far, anyway). It's also the most story-heavy, and the most mechanically complex. This one's still sokoban, but it doesn't feel like it. Rather than moving blocks around you'll be sneaking past guards, dodging traps, and activating levers to open gates. Also, you can teleport. For a sokoban game, it's pretty gnarly. Features 60 super challenging levels!
Theme: Ancient Greece
Levels: 60 + 30 (Aphrodite's Trial)
Although I think Dark Crypt's the prettiest, there's something really unique about Sokobos's pseudo-Greek style that I find really appealing. Sokobos is probably the most 'classic' sokoban-style gameplay of the lot. Initially, it's straight-up sokoban as you push pieces together in the right sequence to build statues in tight spaces. I think the the tight integration of the game's Greek Tragedy theme is what keeps it interesting. As you get into the game further you're rebuliding the whole temple, so instead of arbitrary "blocks" and "boxes", you're pushing furniture around rooms, through corridors, into halls and storerooms. As you progress it gets more complicated, of course; the furniture needs to be painted, and the damage to the temple creates further obstacles. Features 60 levels.
And if you just can't get enough of Daisy's flagship Sokoban title, go grab Aphrodite's Trial. It acts as a sequel, letting you play as Aphrodite (and friends) and furthering the story. Adds even more mechanics and another 30 levels!
Unlike most sokoban hybrid games, which are really just themes or skins, Sokochess really does combine sokoban and chess mechanics for a genuinely unique experience. First, you control multiple pieces that can each move "blocks" (other chess pieces) around - and of course these pieces can only move as their chess counterparts could, which means the board layout has an even greater impact than normal. Sometimes, the obstacle is your own movement pattern. Also, the black pieces actively try to attack you so part of the game works like a reverse sokoban where the obstacles are doing the moving and you have to sacrifice yourself or trick them into moving where you need them to go. I found this the hardest of all of Daisy's games but I think it was probably my favourite! Features 70 levels.
In many ways (and as expected), SokoChess White plays like SokoChess. This time, there are no black pieces, so it's back to your pieces vs obstacles, except the chess-themed movement is maintained. Obstacles are many and varied; The classic boxes, gates & switches all feature, as well as bombs (which usually require a sacrifice but can be used to destroy obstacles), snowflakes (which freeze your pieces unless you can push them to warmth), and others. But it's the synergy between these obstacles and the chess-based movement that really make this game special. As always with Daisy's games, level skipping, undos, and other modcons are all present. I'm enjoying this one as much as I enjoyed the original SokoChess (which is definitely a good thing!)
SokoSolitaire's probably the closest to pure sokoban gameplay that Daisy gets, at least initially (there's not much difference between pushing coloured blocks or coloured cards, after all). Get a little further in and, in classic Daisy fashion, new mechanics are introduced every few levels. Colour swap tiles (Sokobos players will be familiar with these) make an early appearance; in addition, some cards start face-down and have to be flipped before you can place them. I found the movement limitations imposed by the level design particularly challenging in SokoSolitaire, although sometimes there's a deck you can stack cards on from time to time (although of course that's part of the puzzle). There are also locked areas that can be opened by placing cards in their slots - while forcing your hand. My favourite mechanic so far, though, is the cat's paw, which you can pass through but cards cannot. Despite the cute cat and disarming pastel backgrounds, I'm so far finding this game the hardest on Daisy's catalogue so far. So if you're up for a challenge, check it out! Features 60 levels.