The best moment of any good puzzle game is when it rewires your brain and you suddenly feel like the smartest person in the world. That moment when you look at a puzzle and think to yourself, “Oh…that would work!” and then it actually does and you feel amazing. But a great puzzle game should also be filled with surprises. Just as you figure something out, it drops a new dimension or mechanic on you and starts to rewire your brain in a completely different way.
Not many puzzle games can achieve this, but Patrick’s Parabox on Steam not only pulls this off, but it does so while taking you on a trippy adventure.
Released on Steam and Itch.io on March 29, Patrick’s Parabox (great name, btw) is a new puzzle game from developers Patrick Traynor and Priscilla Snow. In it, you play as a cube who lives in a strange world filled with boxes in boxes in boxes in boxes in…well, you get the idea. This neverending Matryoshka doll-like world of cubes is what gives Patrick’s Parabox its unique hook. On its website, its creators promise that each puzzle in the game “contains a new idea” and that there is “no filler.” A bold claim, yet after spending a few hours with Patrick’s Parabox, it seems to be true.
The basic setup has you entering various hub cubes filled with puzzles. Some are mandatory to progression and others are optional, trickier challenge puzzles. All of them function the same. Inside you’ll find at least one zone marked for you to end up in and other zones where cubes need to be placed. Once all zones are filled, you’ve completed the puzzle and move on. And as you complete these puzzles you unlock new hub cubes filled with more problems to solve, with each hub tweaking existing mechanics or adding new ones.
For example, early on you learn that you can go inside some cubes if you push them up against other cubes or walls. Later, you use this to move around barriers that would normally be impossible to navigate without using the box-within-box mechanic. Then you realize you can bring other important cubes into these boxes. Then, even later, you discover that you can go into boxes that are placed in boxes that let you get access to other boxes and then use that to solve a puzzle-within-a-puzzle-within-a-puzzle. If that all sounds rather trippy and hard to understand, it can be at first.
Thankfully, the game does a great job of never throwing too much at you at once, not until it is confident that you’ve mastered its latest new mechanic or idea. Even the challenging puzzles that are optional never feel unfair, they just test if you’ve fully learned a specific concept. And often, I hadn’t, until I bounced into a challenge room and discovered a new layer to the cubes-within-cubes madness of this minimalist puzzler.
Most of the gifs and screenshots you see in this come from the first 45 minutes or so of the game. I’m trying not to spoil later puzzles or ideas because that would ruin discovering the numerous surprises and curveballs the game has planned for you, which is one of the best parts of Patrick’s Parabox.
If you want to zone out and get lost in some cute boxes and cubes, you should check out Patrick’s Parabox. And if you normally play games in, say, a chemically enhanced state, you might find that the brain-tripping puzzles on offer here are plenty mind-altering all by themselves.