Boxboy Review (Nintendo 3DS)
Boxboy is HAL Laboratories’ latest project, and for a company that’s known for huge games like Smash Bros. or Kirby this game may seem like a strange departure from its traditional fare. This is true, but don’t let Boxboy’s unconventional visuals fool you; there’s a lot going on here. As far as puzzle platformers are concerned, Boxboy is a breath of fresh air and proves that no matter the size or style of game, HAL is always committed to delivering a unique and fun experience with their games.
At first glance, Boxboy’s monochromatic visuals might seem boring or flat, but like most things in this game they serve a purpose. The minimalistic black and white graphics perfectly convey the size of objects and their distance from the player, which is a small but important touch for a game like this. Everything in the game is black, white or varying shades of gray and Boxboy himself is just that, a box. The art style is charming and there’s a surprising amount of personality crammed into these basic shapes. Speaking of which, you can unlock costumes for Boxboy to wear, but outside of the ninja and bunny costumes they are purely aesthetic. Even so, each costume has a set of unique animations and while it may seem ineffectual, keeps the game feeling fresh.
Boxboy is a puzzle platform game in which you guide Boxboy through different worlds in order to restore his homeworld after it’s been hit by a meteor. That’s about the extent of the story in this game. You also get a female box and a tall box companion, but outside of a couple of story moments between worlds they don’t do much. Each of the worlds features a different mechanic that you’ll need to master in order to progress. This is a great way to keep a simplistic puzzle game from getting stale too quickly, especially with the surprising amount of worlds and levels present here.
The core mechanic of Boxboy is making blocks and using them to solve puzzles. Boxboy can spawn blocks that are identical in size to him off of his body and they stay attached until you drop them. Each level has a different limit on the amount of blocks you can spawn at once, and a limit on how many blocks you can use in one level. The latter number isn’t a strict limit though, and there’s nothing stopping you from using more than the allotted amount of blocks in a given level. If you do so however, all remaining crowns, which are the only collectibles in this game, will disappear. This prevents you from getting a perfect score on a level, but it’s also the only thing that prevents you from getting a perfect score. You can die, use as many boxes as you want within the limit, and take as long as you want in a level, but as long as you collect all of the crowns in a level you’ll get a perfect score.
All of these points add up to Boxboy feeling very casual, and for a large part of the game, none of the levels or puzzles are particularly hard or time consuming. There’s no penalty for death, and you’re given more than enough points to buy everything in the shop. This lets the player focus on the obstacles at hand rather than completion time, exploration or collectibles but it also removes any incentive for revisiting these levels unless you missed a crown or two. This works out fine though because the puzzle solving is easily Boxboy’s strongest suit.
One of the most impressive things about this game is the open-endedness in each puzzle. No two solutions are the same, especially in early worlds, and the game encourages creativity over memorization of hazards and timing. That level of creativity gives Boxboy more depth as a puzzle game and is much more enjoyable as a result. This also adds to the game being fairly easy however, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in developing a playstyle in a puzzle game, a genre that typically favors more black-and-white gameplay. There are a fair amount of challenge levels and extra worlds for those that want a more difficult adventure though, so hardcore puzzle players will have plenty to do as well.
Simply put, Boxboy is an excellent puzzle platform game and a great addition to the HAL library of games. There’s content and charm in spades, as well as solid mechanics and undeniably fun gameplay. Puzzle game veterans will find themselves easily breezing through the majority of the game, and even the last few worlds will only need a bit of thought and patience to get through. Those looking for a more laid-back and bite-size experience however should look no further than Boxboy.
This review was completed with a purchased download of Boxboy for the Nintendo 3DS.