Coming to us by way of indie game studio Nighthouse Games, a two-man team out of Finland, Sockventure is a humble triumph in mechanical refinement and elbow grease development. A 2D, fast-paced platformer that demands both your attention and patience, Sockventure fits right in among its difficult yet compelling indie peers.
The game’s opening animations and “plot” set-up are kind of harrowing but in an endearing way, I suppose. You play as Boy whose Mother tells him it’s time to do some laundry, gather up your dirty socks that are strewn throughout the family home and toss them into the definitely not haunted washing machine. Like countless children before and after him, Boy takes this menial task as the opportunity to vividly daydream and in his mind, the washing machine steals his favourite socks away and he must send in his superhero sock friend to rescue the feet sleeves.
It’s a fine setup, made memorable by the garish art direction of the “real world” Boy, but soon enough you’ll be inside the cursed machine and lost in a land of neon saturation and unforgiving metal. Sockventure is pleasant enough to look at, never really breaking out with a visual language of its own but instead doing a decent job of adapting the spikes, pits and dangers of most modern 2D platformers into its brightly coloured world. Once inside, you’ll have seven distinct zones to explore with dozens of levels ready to chop and drop you at the moment’s notice.
Sockventure tasks you with the usual suspects of platformers – finish the level within a certain time, collect some optional coins along the way and try to not throw your controller when things inevitably go sideways. Inside each death maze of a level are socks to collect, some of which are on the main path while others will require you to reach difficult places and risk restarting your run. Which is something you’re going to be doing a lot regardless, but the exhilaration of reaching these tricky spots never gets old.
Sockventure‘s controls can feel at odds with its precision platforming during early levels due to its moveset progression and generally “floaty” game feel. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock several new traversal techniques, including a double-jump and dash, that allow you more options but never really negate the innate lightness of the base controls. This isn’t a bad thing as such, but it does mean countless deaths will likely be attributed to your subjective ability to adapt to Sockventure‘s feel – the rate of decline after a jump, the weight of your little sock hero as you try to land and so on.
The levels do slowly but surely increase in complexity, requiring more and more creativity and reflex from the player to achieve those core goals. While the main run of levels can get pretty dicey, players looking for something even harsher can play the game’s Dark Chapters, the Dark Souls of Sockventure levels. You can unlock these by collecting the coins in the main levels and they are brutal morsels for the most ardent platformers. Elsewhere, difficulty can be slightly mitigated by the optional mid-level checkpoints that you can enable in the game’s menu. As someone who can appreciate a platformer but struggles to master them, this little timesaver was a God-send.
Gathering up the wayward socks allows for some minor outfit customisation (the Pride sock outfit was my personal favourite) but short of that, Sockventure is pretty light on additional content. The game has cool built-in speed run options, such as automatically skipping cut-scenes and timer, and the visuals can be tweaked nicely for your optimal style. Lassi Kähärä’s score is used sparingly but effectively, with the whole game’s sound design generally being top-notch.
Sockventure may take some getting used to in the control department but its deceptively simple premise and brightly coloured exterior hide a compelling and complex little game.
Sockventure was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using digital code provided by the publisher.