Welcome To The Islands Of Akurra – It’s Very Blocky

A sokoban indie that encourages exploration and featuring some lovely music, why not give Akurra demo a try on Steam? It's free!

It’s like waiting for a bus and so many come all at once routine as here’s another write-up of a demo I’d been invited to play, Akurra, on Steam.

According to the deets, this game has received a lot of praise from IGN Japan at BitSummit and was featured at the indie Rising Showcase at PAX West, but perhaps not enough for your everyday gamer to hear about? I’d not heard of Jason Newman’s (ex-Metallica? Ah… Newstead…) game until the email I received, so no idea what to expect. So, here are some thoughts.

First, it’s a top-down puzzler that looks straight off the NES in its prime. Aside from reading about the accolades, it wasn’t clear what type of game this would be. Well, it’s a sokoban-style game, and a well-executed one. It’s not the kind of game I’d actively seek, though glad to have played it.

Akurra demo - God?
God? Source: Steam

Akurra feels very natural. That doesn’t mean you’ll solve every single puzzle immediately, but there’s a flow to it where if you’re stumped, you move on to the next area – which is more likely to have the items you need to progress anyway.

There’s no conventional story you might be familiar with; no voiceover or text, but it’s told through exploration. Granted, there’s not much to talk about in this demo on that part, but it’s a charming world that makes you want more. You play what appears to be a castaway in an unspoiled world of blocks that beg to be pushed. Though civilisation doesn’t immediately scream its head at you, the booby traps will.

In fact, from arriving on the shores in Akurra, I must have died in a tenth of a second, having walked back into the water and drowned. Deaths are frequent, but not in a rogue-like sense, just stupidity (on my part) falling into a pit of spikes or similar. There are no health bars or lives, so you respawn and try again. Ah… refreshing! You will have to locate the numerous keys to open new paths, gems and even stars that unlock new islands.

Akurra demo - Turtle power
Turtle power. Source: Steam

Within a matter of minutes, you’re on the back of a giant turtle travelling to places perhaps you’re not quite ready for, but are grateful for the little teaser of what’s to come. So, try the next island, experiment with a puzzle, and try another if you can’t work it out. While deaths don’t interrupt play, you may be stumped on a problem or cock-up with a block placement. In this scenario, you can press the R button (on a controller), and the puzzle will reset.

Pixel art games aren’t the type I seek. I was there the first time around and grateful for polygons and holographic AI – oh, not there yet – but it’s nice to revisit retro-looking titles. For a solo dev experience, it’s pretty damn enchanting, and I can see why it’s received acclaim from the professional media bods. Well, from an average Joe such as yourself, let me tell you that you should give this a go and wishlist it. I’m typing this with it on in the background and have to say that the soundtrack is soooo good. One of the more welcoming and enjoyable sokobans I’ve played, without a doubt.

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