BOXBOY! delivers thrillingly complex puzzles in a small package. HAL Laboratory, the studio behind Kirby, creates another spectacular title. BOXBOY! successfully masters its presentation by utilizing boxes to solve puzzles and adds out-of-the-box ideas that deliver a boxful of variety; however, the clever gameplay is bogged down by the lack of freedom, its soundtrack, and an incredibly weak story. Even with its flaws, BOXBOY! presents a riveting adventure comprised of over 150 stages.
The plot of BOXBOY! follows a box-shaped protagonist named Qbby who must restore his planet to its original cube shape. Despite the weak plot, Qbby’s expressions make him a surprisingly fun and memorable character. His friends, however, feel lackluster — almost meaningless. Overall, it’s a simple story that doesn’t have any depth and one takes a backseat to the far superior gameplay.
BOXBOY! utilizes a simple mechanic of spawning boxes to traverse through tricky puzzles. In each stage, Qbby must solve three to four puzzles and grab a crown using a limited number of boxes. If the crown is collected, Qbby will earn medals, which act as in-game currency. With each world Qbby visits, new gameplay elements take center stage to make each one distinctly different. Every addition to the core mechanic fits comfortably in the formula. Although only a few of the mechanics make an appearance in later worlds during the story, most are exclusive to the world they were introduced in. It isn’t until the post-game content do the mechanics come together. While this is an issue, the originality of the gameplay keeps the player satisfied throughout the 18-world story mode.
After the story is completed, bonus worlds open up to the player. This is where the game becomes diabolically complex. These new worlds combine every mechanic that Qbby learned throughout, providing some of the best puzzles in the game. One of my most memorable — and complicated — puzzles involved escorting a monster from a cliff to a switch that opens a door that rests across a sea of spikes. Another has Qbby falling through teleporting bottomless pits and latching onto a cliff to prevent an untimely demise. These unique challenges make for an engaging experience, but suddenly ramp in difficulty once the story concludes.
While BOXBOY! suffers from a massive difficulty spike that’s commonly found in 3D Mario titles, its hint system provides help for players less-skilled at puzzle games. Hints display what Qbby must craft in order to solve the current step of a puzzle, but do not outright deliver the solution; each hint costs one Play Coin to unlock, which is a fair price for a nudge in the right direction. If the hints aren’t enough, the game allows the player to press “L + R” to reset the current step in the puzzle, which ultimately saves the hassle of going through stages should you mess up.
Hints and the option to reset is available in every level except those found in the “Score Attack” and “Time Attack” challenges, and each offers players the opportunity to unlock levels with in-game medals in the game’s shop. These are some of the most challenging and addicting levels found if the game. Each time trial stage must be completed in a certain amount of time and does not reward the player with anything except bragging rights. Score Attack drops Qbby into a stage where he must collect every item, which is also timed, but it isn’t as stressful as Time Trials. These bonus stages can be unlocked every time Qbby comes across a chest, which happens every few worlds.
Alongside the extra stages, more items are available to unlock in the shop, such as costumes. Some outfits upgrade select abilities for Qbby, too. For example, the Bunny outfit allows Qbby to jump higher and the Wizard costume grants Qbby an extra block in every stage. Every music track from the game can also be unlocked by exchanging medals. Unfortunately, the soundtrack doesn’t provide any quality music; most of the songs are repetitive and obnoxious. Players can also unlock books that offer a handful of tips and tricks to display different solutions for solving puzzles. They’re a helpful reminder, but I never found myself using them past the fifth world.
If you’re not convinced and have a friend who’s urging you to buy it, they can send you a demo of the game. This is a brilliant concept found in BOXBOY!, as anyone who owns the game can send its free demo, via local wireless, to another nearby 3DS. Unfortunately, this is the only way to play a demo, and if you don’t know someone locally that has the game, the mechanic provides no purpose; it was never made available for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
BOXBOY! provides a copious amount of content for such a small price. Even though it may not be artistically appealing, its intelligent game design is a satisfying surprise. BOXBOY! is a must-buy for any 3DS owner who’s looking to solve some complex puzzles.