SokoChess review

2022-08-12 by George P

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms


  • Developer
    Daisy Games

  • Publisher
    Daisy Games

New Ways to Push

SokoChess is the latest title by solo designer and developer Daisy Games who earlier this year also released Sokobos which we reviewed on the site back in May. Sokobos is a game that I really enjoyed playing and one that I highly praised in my article for its smart level design and fresh ideas; I was therefore very excited to try out the developer’s new project. Similar to Sokobos, SokoChess is of course a Sokoban puzzle game that promises a series of challenging brain teasers and mind twists. As the name implies, SokoChess is an experimental attempt to unite most of the mechanics of chess with the traditional Sokoban format of pushing stuff to the right places. I was very intrigued to see how this concept would be executed and SokoChess does utilize some interesting ideas in order to make this combination of genres possible. The foundational principle is that instead of capturing pieces, in SokoChess you push them using either one chess piece per level or in many cases multiple pieces. And while all the pieces follow their standard chess move-set rules, it does take some time to get used to the game’s Sokoban aspect as some piece mechanics are also less straightforward than others. For example, while pawns or rooks just push pieces one tile towards the corresponding direction, knights will send pieces to the knights’ previous tile position. As you progress through the levels, you will also notice some iconic staple mechanics of the Sokoban genre, such as collapsing tiles or locks and keys, being introduced and integrated into the concept mix. However, the surprising twist that I did not expect to see as a core part of the gameplay is that the enemy will also respond to your actions and will capture your pieces if they enter a tile where they are vulnerable.

This is a feature in design that not only provides an additional layer of depth but also makes the board feel alive and much more dynamic. This is a feature that also opens up a lot of clever possibilities in gameplay such as sacrificing your own chess pieces in order to progress a puzzle. The developer’s trademark signature of deceptively challenging levels is also present in SokoChess. These are puzzles that initially appear simple and straightforward but are actually considerably difficult and require plenty of time and out-of-the-box thinking to figure out. These types of cleverly designed levels are certainly the big highlight of the game, as they also were in Sokobos.

Genre Checkmate

SokoChess is part of a larger trend of chess-inspired games that have been coming out in surprisingly high numbers in past years, and what is perhaps even more surprising is that these sorts of titles are never really about chess. In fact, if you search for the “Chess” tag on Steam, the vast majority of games that you will discover are not actually related to regular chess at all. They are usually either chess with some kind of gimmick or some sort of hybrid between chess and a video game genre. Chess with tower defense, chess with cards, roguelike chess, RPG chess, and much more. The pattern that I have noticed while playing such titles is that their experimental game design usually falls under two categories: it either works very well or does not work at all. I think SokoChess is a game in the hybrid chess sub-genre with an overall design direction that surprisingly falls in the much rarer middle category. SokoChess is by no means a bad game as it is undoubtedly an intelligent and well-made experience, and it is visible that a lot of time, effort, and thought went into designing the levels and executing the overall concept. However, at the same time, there is nothing particularly exceptional about it, and it does suffer from a number of issues in its effort to combine the traditional Sokoban format with the mechanics of chess.

SokoChess is definitely a difficult game and probably even more challenging than Sokobos which was already challenging enough. As a player I always enjoy and actively seek out tough experiences in games; however, I do not consider difficulty as a merit on its own. A challenge that is both difficult and enjoyable is certainly not an easy task for any developer to achieve and in SokoChess there is a very large variance in puzzle fluidity and enjoyability. Without a doubt the game includes original and fresh ideas, as well as plenty of very cleverly designed levels. However, many other puzzles, especially the larger ones, can be cluttered and non-intuitive, and solving some of them feels more like a chore than interesting brain-teasing fun.

The Good, The Bad, and The Confusing

The game design of SokoChess is neither bad nor lazy, in fact, quite the opposite. If there was one way to describe it, it would be “forced”. It is almost as if someone really wanted to make a hybrid of chess and the Sokoban genre, and went the extra mile to achieve that no matter how well these two worlds could actually match. Let’s look for example at the system the game uses to dictate how the enemy pieces will move. For them to act in a predictable manner since this is a puzzle game, pieces have indicated numerical values that determine the order that they will use to capture your pieces if they have the opportunity. However, there is another rule that overrides the previous one where the enemy pieces will prioritize capturing higher-value pieces instead, no matter their numerical value. And then later in the game, there is another rule where friendly pieces standing in a “protected” tile will not be captured in any case. If all this sounds a bit convoluted and non-intuitive it is because that is exactly what the issue is. The problem is not that the mechanics themselves are hard to understand, but rather that they are clunky and not particularly interesting to engage with. There are numerous other examples such as the above that demonstrate this, even the fact that you are pushing pieces while the enemy AI is capturing yours also feels a bit off. Overall, I believe that the game’s design direction clashes with one of the most defining traits of chess which is its highly minimalist philosophy.

Unlike many board games with long rulebooks and all kinds of additions, chess stands out as a game with a small number of straightforward mechanics that are able to generate an enormous amount of depth. Chess is the definition of the “easy to learn, hard to master” slogan. Maybe Sokoban games and chess just do not mix very well, or maybe some other approach to design could have produced more consistently intuitive and engaging results. Either way, SokoChess, with all its flaws, is still able to provide a good time to fans of puzzle games and more experimental titles, and does include plenty of deceptively smart levels that were a joy to solve. As far as visual presentation goes, there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy to point out. SokoChess uses a fairly standard modern minimal UI that does not really have any character or distinctiveness but works well considering the game’s context and mechanical complexity. The game also includes all the convenient features and responsive control functions that help make the solving experience feel smooth, polished, and much less frustrating.


SokoChess is an experimental and unique game with clever level design and plenty of engaging puzzles. However, it does suffer from multiple core issues in its design attempt to combine chess with the Sokoban genre.