By Josh Speer / April 8th, 2015
|Release Date||April 2, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence|
It’s not often that a game comes out of nowhere and demands your attention. It does happen, as proven by indies such as Armillo and GravBlocks+, but these titles are in general few and far between. First of all, this is because most games tend to have long advertising campaigns leading up to their release, and the magic of the Internet means we normally know way too many details about games months before they launch (looking at you, Smash Bros…). Thus, it makes sense that the games that usually surprise me are the more obscure titles. While I know this, it was still shocking to see such a title come from HAL Laboratory, known much more for Smash Bros. and Kirby. So, the question remains, was BOXBOY! a standout niche gem, or should HAL Laboratory have stuck to their better-known IPs?
BOXBOY! starts out pretty simply. You are a little square gentleman named Qbby whose goal is to reach the door at the end of each level while acquiring as many Crowns as possible. However, it’s not as simple as running to the end of the stage. Qbby is not a talented jumper and can’t run that fast. What he can do is generate boxes from himself. They are all interconnected, and you can keep them attached to yourself or detach them and toss them. The amount you can generate varies from level to level, and you can only have one box construct active at a time. Can’t reach that ledge? Produce a box and use it as a stepping stone to a higher elevation. It sounds simple, and it starts out that way, but, as the game progresses, more and more complex mechanics are introduced.
While the plot is relatively minor, there is an actually overarching purpose to Qbby’s actions. As you progress, you come across little cutscenes where Qbby either finds a new companion, such as the Box Girl, or encounters strange artifacts. These artifacts hint at a greater scope to his actions that I won’t spoil for anyone. All I will say, is by defeating each world, you clear the path through some noxious gunk to the next set of worlds, as well as item chests. These chests unlock Music, Costumes, Challenges and helpful Tips and Tricks. These let you spend the Medals you acquire by beating levels, with more unlocked by getting all the Crowns in each World.
Getting all those Crowns isn’t simple, however. To successfully get all the Crowns in a stage, you have to do it using a limited number of boxes. This is not the same as the box limit placed on your constructs. The game actually keeps track of how many boxes you produce. The trick is, once you get all the Crowns in a stage, that handicap disappears, letting you make as many constructs as necessary to get to the goal. The game doesn’t overtly tell you this, but it is a handy tactic for getting some of the more brutally-placed Crowns. You can also retry a stage an infinite amount of times, letting you figure out the right plays through trial and error.
I mentioned earlier how the game adds more and more mechanics to the gameplay, and I wasn’t joking. The main Story mode is comprised of 17 worlds with varying amounts of levels, each world introducing a new game mechanic. I won’t name all of them, but some of those that made an impact on me are Hooks, Snaking, Sticky-Spots, Gravity Belts and much more. For example, Hooks involve making a L-shaped construct on Qbby’s head, leaping up and getting it stuck on a ledge, and then collapsing it to bring him to the ledge. This progression of techniques shows off the best of what Nintendo games are capable of. The beautiful sense of discovery that happens when you figure out how to accomplish an especially tricky maneuver makes you feel brilliant. None of the challenges in BOXBOY! ever feel unconquerable, but they will certainly put your gray matter to work.
As far as presentation goes, I was pretty happy with BOXBOY! Yes, the visuals are simplistic and black and white, but they also were pretty effective in conveying the tone of the game. There is a sense of wonder and exploration in BOXBOY! that is somehow better conveyed without color. I can’t explain it better than that. As for the music, it is much like the art. Simple, effective and low key. It will keep you motivated to keep on playing, and maybe get you humming a tune. Neither reach out and slap you over the face, but I feel both set the tone for the game very well.
I honestly have no real complaints about BOXBOY! It kept me playing practically non-stop, and I loved every minute of it. The only aspects of it I didn’t experience were the Demos and Hints. The Demos let you send a free taste of the game to those you StreetPass with. The Hint system lets you spend Play Coins to help you get past levels if you’re stuck. I’m too much of an stubborn old school gamer to ever give up and use a hint. Overall, I was very, very pleased with BOXBOY! For $4.99, it offered over seven hours of gameplay, and that’s not even counting the Challenge Stages or the Bonus Worlds that opened up after I beat the Story Mode. BOXBOY! is not only one the best new IPs HAL Laboratory has come out with in years, it’s my favorite new 3DS eShop game. If you like puzzles or old school video games, go buy it.
Review Copy Purchased by Reviewer