Monday, July 03, 2006

Warehouse Warrior

Back in the early eighties I was working for a division of Eaton Corporation, traveling way too much and spending 300+ days a year in hotels. During this time I was introduced to a new computer game by one of my co-workers. It was a simple game, as most computer games were at the time, playable only on DOS. Sokoban became, however, for us field personnel at Eaton-Kenway a major form of recreation and competition.

As I said it was a simple game, with only 3 rules and 1 objective. On a crude graphics screen was displayed a little guy in a warehouse maze, his objective was to move boxes through the maze and into specified storage spaces. The three rules were just as simple. He could push a box. He could not push two or more boxes simultaneously. He could not pull a box.

Keeping those three simple rules in mind, click on the image above and work through the puzzle mentally. You can see that it quickly becomes quite an exercise in logical thinking and problem solving. That's only the first level, there were 49 more to solve in the original game, with each becoming successively more difficult.

At first you merely want to accomplish the primary objective. Get all the boxes into the proper places. But then you try various strategies to reduce the number of moves and pushes, or try for a faster time. This game kept us field guys occupied for several years competing man to man or jobsite against jobsite.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon some new incarnations of Sokoban. There are dozens, but the best by far is Sokoban++ developed by Joris Wit and available as freeware. Sokoban++ remains faithful to the original, using the same layouts for the 50 levels, but goes a few steps further by including several "skins" or graphic looks, including an accurate reproduction of the MS-DOS original I have shown in the first graphic.

There are several versions of Sokoban developed for the Mac, as well as some java and flash versions playable online. There is even a freeware version for mobile phones called postman.

It had been years since I played the game, but it's just as addictive as it was in 1988 when I last played it. My lead electrician was so taken by the game that he has already gone through all 50 original levels and has pushed me to find additional levels for him. Luckily there are several sources for additional levels and I've just presented him with a CD containing approximately 300 more puzzles. That should keep him occupied until the end of the year I suppose.

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