The first episode of a short series on games I discovered at WASD 2023.

Sokobond Express

Sokobond Express started as a mashup of two of Alan Hazelden’s classic puzzle titles: Sokobond (Hazelden & Lee, 2013) and Cosmic Express (Cosmic Engineers, 2015). It was a free game called Subatomic Wire with twenty levels, written by Jose Hernandez.

The presskit explains what happened next:

“When Draknek saw it, we loved the way it mashed up elements from Sokobond and Cosmic Express, and knew immediately we wanted to make it an official sequel.”

It’s shaping up nicely. There were eleven levels in the demo at WASD and I finished every one of them. The core idea just works so well, although visually I can’t help but be reminded of SpaceChem (Zachtronics, 2011), that classic game I’ve only played once for five minutes.

Because so much changes between the start and end of your atomic train journey, Sokobond Express shows an echo of the resulting molecule as you draw every new segment of track. Although I’ve only seen a few levels, I could already see some interesting rules in the game. For example, while travelling, the molecule can pass outside the puzzle playfield just fine – but only while travelling: no part of it can lie outside the border when it reaches the endpoint.

Looking forward to this, even though I eventually graveyarded the original Sokobond because I got stuck. My early impression is that Sokobond Express is a hard game.

Sokobond Express is scheduled to be released some time this year.

Road 96: Mile 0

So there’s this game called Road 96 (Digixart, 2021) which I’d never heard of before. According to Steam, it’s a “procedurally generated road trip”. But it’s also clearly got some story going on. It got some accolades but obviously not enough to reach me.

This week I plonked myself in front of Road 96: Mile 0 because that’s what I do at gaming expos. I sit in front of games I might ignore otherwise. There was nothing about the Road 96 imagery that automatically appealled to me.

At WASD, it seemed there were just two bits of the game available for “replay”. I tried the first one which was an action game where this girl Zoe skates away from her bodyguard, all the time laughing maniacally. While there was nothing else to draw upon – I didn’t get any of the narrative decisions or conversations that current gameplay videos show – this segment seemed more representational. Her bodyguard turns into a literal giant and Zoe skates up a skyscraper to evade him. And all along the way, Zoe has to pick up shiny diamonds to improve her performance for the level. There were also quick-time events.

It was alright. I decided to try the other scenario. This time I was a character called Saito who was skating to escape some inner turmoil. It felt like I was navigating a Carpenter Brut synthwave track and this… this I liked so much I played it three times.

Road 96: Mile 0 releases on April 4.


Somewhere in my dark and desolate mind, there is a false memory that I featured Hackshot in a Crashbook post. Nope. Never happened. But I sat down in front of Hackshot in the Curios section (the WASD equivalent of Rezzed’s Leftfield Collection) completely sure this was a game I had once talked about. Turns out it was one of the Draknek New Voices Puzzle Grant winners. Which is a prize almost as good as Crashbook.

Hackshot is the latest spin on the artillery game, where hacking is represented as firing a ball to knock out some processes. You choose the angle and let the ball do all the work. Limitations are what makes this a puzzle game rather than just some physics toy. You’re going to have to work out how to complete each hack with the limited tools at your disposal – for example, your balls are finite. Think you need three more balls to finish the level? Think again. Think harder.

So what’s the trick? Well you also get to play around with the physics. In the levels I played, I had mods to mess with the “gravity” and “bounce”. I admit I found the UI a little confusing; perhaps a dedicated tutorial would clear this up.

There’s something assured and confident about the vibe: the between-level cutscenes and the music got me on board before I even took my first Hackshot.

Hackshot is scheduled to be released in Q3 2023.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

6 thoughts on “Dabbling At… WASD 2023, 1

  1. ha ha, followed the link to the Graveyard post and saw Stephen’s Sausage Roll there, and in the comments I was magnaniously declining to urge you on to more Stephen’s Sausage Roll, and then trying to get you into Jelly No Puzzle.

    Also it is time for me to admit that DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder is in the graveyard. Months ago I reached one puzzle that is so annoying that I just gave up, even though there are many other puzzles I could be trying. Or I just don’t see how to do it.

    Inscryption is kinda marginal too, though it’s really disk space that’s the problem. Maybe I will find a way to reinstall it this summer when I can give a push through to the finish. And I even forgot the other puzzle game I uninstalled for disk space–it’s Wilderplace, which, yeah.

  2. Matt, are you derailing the comments before they can even get started? Top notch work, there.

    I still have Wilderplace.

    Also I still have an Undock and Sushi Belt to solve.

  3. well there was an implicit “road 96 looks cool too bad it’s windows-only” at the beginning. actually idk about road 96, I am far too much of a sucker for anything that says “procedurally generated” but what I really want is procedurally generated landscapes. I’m not sure that the thing they’ve described is something I think is actually possible for them to have made in a cool way. But then what you describe is completely different from what I imagine? And anyway, 15 GB disk space, lol. I so need to do something about this. I wonder if I can put the music from my hard drive into the cloud or something.

    btw a subtheme about this, apparent only to me and thus ineffective, is that I wanted to bait you into a Yugo Puzzle update.

    I haven’t really tried Sushi Belt much! The others I have left are Tripwire, Spiky Tower, and Drop Box, all of which I’ve managed to get weird bugs on. No wait I don’t have Tripwire anymore, because I just went to take a picture of the weird bug, and it didn’t happen, and that was how I was trying to solve the level. And the weird bug that I exploited to “solve” Spike Tower before is gone. Huh. I wonder if that means there was another solution to Tripwire?

    Trying for a real solution to Spiky Tower, I’ve done some things that leave me one crate/obstruction short, and I feel like I had a solution’s worth of insights, and I don’t know if it’s a situation like I had in Sculpture where I started with a bad setup, but in this case I just don’t see how else to do these things?

    Drop Box remains completely opaque. I was going to complain about how far apart these levels are, and that the Drop Box area provides exactly as many crates as required to build staircases without any restacking, which means that not having solved them I do have some restacking, but I guess that’s less applicable now that Tripwire’s gone.

    (also I still have the weird bug from Drop Box)

  4. I have no idea what Road 96 is all about as Mile 0 seems to land in the category which is “wait what is this game” I feel like I want to find out.

    On bait: I really really reallllly want to do one of my own streams again but it’s just so hard making it happen between Side by Side and Thinky Games and whatever the bleeping else is going on all the time.

    I have tried Sushi Belt a lot but tried Undock a lot in the past, but I need to switch back to it. I talked to Alan Hazelden about various levels I was stuck on. Apparently, Corey thought they should put some extra walls in Sushi Belt to guide players to the right shape but Alan resisted; Corey may be winning the argument now. I told Alan I loved Drop Box.

    There were quite a few bugs in Lost Memories, just because of all the potential interactions, but several have been removed already.

    These aren’t hints but gives you a flavour about the type of solution involved, if you want Matt.

    Spiky Tower: Vg nyy pbzrf qbja gb n cnegvphyne gevpx, juvpu V guvax V sbhaq nppvqragnyyl.

    Drop Box: Vg pbhyq or nethrq guvf vf qbja gb n gevpx, ohg zber bs n fhcrecbfvgvba bs gevpxf naq abg nyy bs gubfr ner boivbhf hagvy lbh gel. Lbh unir gb unir na vqrn bs jung lbh arrq ng gur raq gb rira trg fgnegrq ba guvf.

  5. Hey, your covering of Hackshot makes me really proud, glad to see that you liked it.

    Oh… hello… lol I forgot to introduce myself, I am the developer of the game and this article made me smile hard, thank you.

  6. Thank you Mohammed! There are a couple of other PIECES OF CONTENT coming up in a couple of weeks which will also feature Hackshot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.