Review of Box Boy (3DS)

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Hello, and welcome to my first review!

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Today, I’ll be reviewing Box Boy for the Nintendo 3DS. 

 

At first glance this game looks strange. The game’s name doesn’t quite stand out, the main character is a box with legs, and the bulk of the game is in black and white. With that in mind, let’s try to look past appearances, and try to figure out if this game is more than it looks.

I chose this game as I thought this was my most obscure 3DS title, or runs the risk of becoming obscure if it doesn’t get the attention that it might not get otherwise. That being said, it does have two sequels, which will be reviewed not too long after this one.

So what kind of game is Box Boy? It’s a 2D puzzle platformer for starters. The main way to progress and solve puzzles is to have the main character Qbby (and no, I’m not sure how pronounce that. My best guess is Kwibby) generate new boxes from his body and use them in a variety of ways to overcome obstacles.

Boxboy
This image shows many of the ways to use boxes in the game Box Boy

These boxes start out attached to Qbby’s body, and can be thrown ahead of him to place it elsewhere in the level. Each level can only have a set number of boxes on screen at a time. The number varies level by level. If you want to set up more boxes, the old boxes will vanish. Some ways that boxes can be used include:

  • Creating a new platform to get over an obstacle he can’t jump over otherwise. This can be done either as a stepping stone for a high area, or to set on a hazard such as spikes to get over them safely.
  • If still attached to Qbby, the box can be perform a “hook” when a box lands on another platform. Qbby then moves to the first box on the platform, and can reach locations not otherwise accessible.
  • If Qbby is in a narrow space, he can generate boxes within the narrow space, and can safely slide to the last box in the narrow space. This can also be used to get into narrow spaces.
  • And boxes can be used as a shield, such as from lasers.

The earliest levels give you tutorials involving an animated example with the buttons to press when there is a new type of task. While I might prefer a game that allows you to try out the buttons and see what does what, this sort of lesson is a must to ensure everyone knows the basics of play, as it isn’t too long before the game asks you to try out a new puzzle that builds off the last thing you tried. Considering that no other game has this gimmick (as far as I know), it makes sense.

As a puzzle centered game, the thing that might make or break it is the puzzle design. The game features 17 main worlds, with at least 6 stages in each world. Additionally, there are 5 bonus worlds after clearing the main game. Each individual level has around three puzzles to traverse, with checkpoints in case you die as you progress. The player can also reset to the last checkpoint in case they can see that they messed up, though this counts as a death.

Each world relies on a specific action or obstacle to learn how to navigate in order to progress. Each individual level expects the player to figure out how to do so in increasingly complex ways. As the game gets tougher, some earlier obstacles will be used with the world’s new obstacles to add a layer of complexity.

For most of the hard puzzles, there’s a lot of trial and error, at least on my first play through. Some of these puzzles feel more obvious after figuring it out. There have been a number of times I solve a puzzle using a simple shape of boxes that I somehow didn’t try (or use the right way). In some cases, timing becomes important for safely getting across a level, but this doesn’t happen too early on.

It should also be mentioned that there one or two collectibles called crowns in every level. To get them you have touch them before you generate a certain number of boxes, which is different for each level. If you create too many boxes, uncollected crowns disappear. If you gather all the crowns, you can happily spit out boxes till you finish the level. Gathering all crowns in a level gets you more credit to use in the in-game shop. You can always retry a level to get any crowns you miss. Most of the time, you do have to go a little out of the way to get a crown. In some cases, you need to solve the puzzle in a different way, or conserve boxes earlier in the level to get them.

The shop is a little bit of an oddity in this game. It features fun costumes that do not power up Qbby, all the game’s music, tips, and most importantly, a series of challenge levels with time limits to gather a certain number of points or complete the level in time. Of the four things that are sold, the challenges are the only thing of direct value to the player, though new players might appreciate tips. Unless you like dress-up or to listen to the music any time, you can skip these two options till you gather all of the in-game money.

The most impressive thing about this game is the variety. Most obstacles are seen in other platformers. There are the standard pits and spikes, of course. Then there are also lasers, conveyor belts, moving platforms, switches, cranes, and pits that if you fall through them, you’ll reappear and fall from the ceiling. Some puzzles are fiendishly challenging, especially after the game’s story is complete. Often new puzzles ask the player to re-think how to use the boxes and/or understand the obstacle in a new way. I’ve had a lot of trouble with some puzzles the first time around, and I’ve played games all my life! That being said, I rarely felt cheated out of being able to find a solution due to poor design.

The final set of story based levels is a must see. It’s not the most challenging, but is a visual delight, and feels like it is building up to a strong ending. Plus the final world is fun to solve in of itself.

The post-story levels are quite challenging. I had to replay this game for the review, and I suffered the same issues of not seeing what might be obvious to other sharper players, or to those who know the answer. Although maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad about it. These levels pushed me to the limit of what someone might understand of this game’s core mechanic, and could easily be frustrating for new players. This chunk of the game might require a lot of trial and error for almost anyone, and can lead to a sort of addicting form of frustration.

Lastly, if you complete all levels and gather all the crowns, you will be rewarded with your game statistics, and a marathon mode. In marathon mode, you get to re-play all the levels in a given world, and afterwards are given the option to save your new game play statistics for that world. Your overall game play stats are updated as well, so you have a chance to get a better rating, adding a ton of replay value for completionists.

One thing I’d like to do before I hand out a final score is a recommendation of how much of the game you should play. In this case, it depends on your tolerance for frustrating puzzles.

  • Everyone should play to the final story level, that is for sure.
  • Players that like to see everything a game has to offer should see the bonus worlds, and collect all the crowns, provided that they appreciate the challenge.
  • The challenge levels are optional, but are the first things you should buy with the in game currency, in case you don’t want to gather all the crowns, as they are fairly fun, and a good diversion.
  • Complete mastery requires perfect game play stats, via marathon mode. Unless you thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of the game and can’t get enough, you can skip this option.

Lastly, I will summarize the Pros and Cons of the game:

Pros:

  • Unique and easy to understand core game play mechanic.
  • Easy to learn, hard to master.
  • Great variety of levels.
  • Simple visual design makes it easy to distinguish obstacles.
  • Game is very affordable, at roughly $4.99.

Cons:

  • Very frustrating post-game.
  • Some puzzles require too much trial and error.
  • The in-game shop is nearly pointless, from a functional standpoint.

Final verdict: 8/10 Great


Want to hear more about the Box Boy series? Would you like me to review the two sequels? Or would you like a rundown of the individual levels in a guide? Do you have a different opinion of the game and want to tell me why you feel the way you do? For all this and more, join the conversation in the comments below.

Until next time, happy Gaming!

 

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