For the third year in a row Hal Laboratory has developed a Box Boy title for the 3DS, each time adding fresh and fun ways to navigate each level. The current iteration, Bye-Bye Box Boy is as addictive as the former games and if it’s possible, even cuter.
You play as Qbby, who for all intents and purposes, is a box. In a classic Mario type scenario, you’re given worlds to get through that all contain six or so levels that (as per the norm) increase in difficulty.
There is a nostalgic yet modern — almost phone game like — charm to the how Box Boy operates. It’s a puzzle platformer that relies on short levels for small bursts of satisfaction. It’s a well designed gimmick too because I constantly found myself saying “oh just one more”. The beauty is that for all of it ostensibly plain design, its levels are consistently reinventing themselves, throwing new techniques and tasks into the mix.
For the Box Boy uneducated, Qbby needs to get to the end of each level, dodging pitfalls, lasers and spikes. Pretty standard stuff, only Qbby is equipped with some special abilities allowing him to spawn multiple boxes that can drag him to places or boost him with rockets. There is a hint option that comes at a cost and sometimes you’re going to need it because Box Boy becomes a real noodle scratcher at times. Certain levels require you to place your line of boxes in certain positions or stop falling blocks at a certain point so that you can hit appropriate switches. My favourite was escorting (yep, finally a good escort mission) a little…box ..person that may fall to her demise if you don’t take her into account. Some puzzles are much more difficult than others but they’re always just a move away and it’s in that obvious yet not so obvious approach that Box Boy finds its appeal.
The levels, much like the visual presentation of the game is simplistic in design but adorable and quirky all the same. Employing a black and white motif and made up almost completely by line work, Box Boy shines through its minute details. The way that Qbby expresses hard work or frustration and the hints of colour that brighten up the game ever so gracefully are sweet little additions that add to the minimalist look.
It’s all lovely to look at but like a lot of 3DS titles, its longevity lies in replayability, not the length of its campaign. There are only so many worlds to conquer until you’re done and you could easily knock it out in a day. However I’ve already mentioned that Box Boy is intended for short bursts of fun so revisiting it doesn’t have to be a grind. Taking into account the crowns that you need to collect in each level (some of which you’ll miss the first time around), the clothes and comics to unlock and the challenge mode, Box Boy is packed with more content than its first impressions would lead you to believe.
I loved Bye-Bye Box Boy. It works your brain over just enough with its puzzles and its bite sized levels and variations on gameplay are enough to keep you playing for extended periods. It’s a fantastic looking game that exemplifies how beautiful simple can be. Oh and if Qbby isn’t a Nintendo icon yet, then the company needs to take a long hard look at its business practices.
Review Score: 9/10
Highlights: Addictive; Beautiful in its simplicity; Diverse gameplay
Developer: Hal Laboratory
Release Date: Out Now