Ever since the Nintendo eShop opened its digital doors in 2011, the 3DS storefront has featured some phenomenal games. Many of these have been puzzle games, as titles such as Pushmo and Mighty Switch Force quickly became mainstays on the system. Last year one of the best surprises was HAL Laboratory’s BoxBoy!, a quirky puzzle platformer which puts players in the shoes of a box named Qbby. Well, I’m pretty sure Qbby doesn’t wear shoes, but that’s beside the point.
It’s been a year since BoxBoy! won the hearts of 3DS owners, and now Nintendo has published a new sequel in the burgeoning series. Naturally called BoxBoxBoy!, the sequel largely features more of the same. Players still use Qbby’s ability to spawn boxes out of himself (try not to think of the science behind this mechanic too much) in order to cross gaps, solve puzzles, and make his way through levels. HAL clearly subscribes to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy here, and that’s fine since the core concept is simple to understand and surprisingly flexible.
The amount of boxes that Qbby can pull out of himself is dependant on what level he’s in. Sometimes he’ll be able to connect four boxes together, other times it’s only two. HAL constantly switches up the amount in order to make sure gamers don’t get too familiar with the possibilities and its wonderful. Each level offers up a brand new challenge, and that variety is what makes BoxBoxBoy! great.
This diversity isn’t just seen in the gameplay, as it’s also found in the levels as well. Most of the game’s 10+ worlds are set around a central idea or new gameplay mechanic. One memorable world introduced enemies, and I had to use Qbby’s boxes in order to make pathways that lured foes right into traps. Another set of levels focused on portals that dramatically morphed the game’s typically straightforward level design into a set of connected areas.
All of this variety is fantastic, and I was constantly excited to find out what BoxBoxBoy! was going to show me next. It’s really impressive how much mileage HAL Labatory is able to get out of its core idea, as there are dozens of levels here and it never got old. In fact, the game only got stronger as it went along since it started to combine the ideas that it previously introduced separately.
In the final levels I was luring enemies into portals, watching them fall, only to create a platform for them to walk on. It gets incredibly precise later on to where timing is just as important as figuring out the puzzles, and that’s sadly where a lot of frustration crept in. One of the great things about Pushmo was how it allowed players to simply rewind time if they made a mistake. It took out a lot of the trial and error and didn’t punish players. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Instead, every time I messed up I had to elaborately restack all of my boxes and try again.
That minor frustration isn’t enough to take away from what is otherwise a stellar experience, though. No matter how annoyed I got, I still wanted to finish every puzzle. That’s easier said than done, but thankfully BoxBoxBoy! supports the Nintendo 3DS’ play coin feature. This allowed me to purchase hints (which are one coin apiece) when I got tired of banging my head against the wall trying to figure out a solution. I rarely used the coins, as it was far more satisfying to figure out the puzzles myself, but I did succumb a few times in moments of temporary weakness.
Despite being sold at a budget price point, HAL has packed a lot of content onto this 3DS download. There are adorable four-panel comics to buy with in-game coins, super difficult bonus levels that feature super-powered costumes (such as a fast moving ninja box), and collectibles to find in each level. Not only will it take many hours to complete the core game, but there’s also enough here that will keep this on my 3DS’ SD card in the foreseeable future.
BoxBoxBoy! is a complete steal at its $4.99 price point. It builds upon the genius foundation that the original game set and will strain your brain even further. Great for both short spurts and long sittings, this title truly demonstrates why handheld gaming can be so great.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS exclusive, which we were provided with.
BoxBoxBoy! starts off simple, but it quickly had me staring at my 3DS clueless. Thankfully, a puzzle solution is just one moment of genius away, and every stage eventually seems beatable.