Sections

Box Boy 3DS Review: It's Hip to be Square

HAL Laboratory puts an unexpectedly fresh spin on block-based puzzles in this quirky 3DS eShop release.

Review by Bob Mackey, .

In the world of video games, block-pushing puzzles mostly act as filler; an easy way to drop in some "thinky bits" without forcing developers to work too hard.

Over the past few years, though, Nintendo platforms have done much to restore the reputation of block-pushers. Intelligent Systems' Pushmo, Crashmo, and Pushmo World honestly gave me a new appreciation for these kinds of puzzles thanks to their smart design and user-friendly features—like the ability to quickly rewind if you screw up a move. HAL Laboratory's Box Boy stems from this same school of thought, and its attempt to rethink block-pushing provides challenges on a much smaller scale than what's found in the Pushmo family of games—making it an even better fit for the handheld format.

Box Boy builds its collection of minute-long puzzles around the strange abilities of protagonist Qbby; instead of finding boxes throughout the levels—like your common Lolos and Lalas—this anthropomorphized square generates them from his own body in a manner that doesn't look entirely comfortable. Since each level places a cap on the amount of boxes Qbby can generate at once—starting a new formation merely blips the previous one out of existence—the real challenge comes from working within these limitations to reach the goal at the end.

It's a premise that, at first, feels a little too basic; by the end of the first set of challenges, I was asking myself, "How are they going to get a whole game out of this?" But, with each grouping of levels, HAL manages to find surprising new uses for Qbby's powers. While you'll initially be spawning blocks to bridge gaps and cover spikes, soon enough, Qbby will be using his box-growing ability to grab onto ledges and pull himself up, snake his way through tunnels, and build makeshift helmets and shields to protect himself from dangerous lasers. He's a surprisingly versatile little rhombus.

And when Box Boy finally mines the extent of Qbby's powers, the levels themselves begin to incorporate new elements, forcing you to rethink how to to use his abilities in different contexts. Once you've learned the basics, each grouping of levels centers around a new environmental element, and, in true Nintendo fashion, these challenges subtly teach in order to prepare you for the final test. These additions add just the right amount of complication to Box Boy while keeping the laser focus of its game play intact; whether you're being carried around by massive cranes, diving through portals, or filling gaps to break rows of geometry, Tetris-style, the essential actions of Qbby himself never change.

Even though Box Boy offers some pretty tricky levels, it still manages to be intensely friendly without compromising the challenge. The levels are short, but offer frequent checkpoints, meaning you're only asked to process one or two steps at a time; an improvement on games like Pushmo, which would often have me wondering exactly when I messed up a move in one of its massive puzzles. And finally we have a Nintendo-published puzzle game that makes instantly restarting a level completely painless; just hit L and R and you'll zip right back to the beginning of the stage—something I desperately wish they'd patch into Captain Toad.

In general, HAL's approach with Box Boy cuts out much of the frustration you'll find in other block-based puzzle games, as it lets players rapidly prototype possible solutions without first having to start over from square one. Honestly, this helped me soldier on through puzzles that would've left me stymied in similar games, and I'm hoping other developers take notice.

Like most eShop releases, Box Boy didn't get the biggest push from Nintendo—someone had to remind me it was actually out—and I can see many people shying away from this strange new IP with barebones graphics—heck, it doesn't even use the system's 3D feature. But, for the price of a fancy latte, Box Boy comes loaded with a ton of great puzzles, and delivers them in a way that won't test your patience. I'm not sure if there's enough ideas left to make for a worthwhile sequel, but it's always refreshing to see mega-developers like HAL take a break from their cash cows for neat little diversions like Box Boy. If you'd like to see more fun experiments of this sort, vote with your dollars—this time around, you'll only need five of them.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: Box Boy's intentionally lo-fi style gives it a distinct look, and does an excellent job of communicating the essential visual information of its many levels.
  • Sound: The music feels largely ambient, and fits well with the action. Though it often fades into the background, thankfully, it never distracts.
  • Interface: It's as basic as you can get, which works extremely well with Box Boy's minimalist vibe.
  • Lasting appeal: Box Boy offers plenty of levels, and each one contains a number of collectible crowns that can only be nabbed by players making the most efficient use of Qbby's abilities. And there's a handful of time and collecting-based bonus levels if you still need more Box Boy in your life.

If you crave a digestible and portable puzzle-based diversion, look no further than HAL's Box Boy. Its outright friendliness helps combat the patience-testing nature of most puzzle games, and those minutes-long levels allow players to make some degree of progress, even if they don't have much time to spare. Box Boy might not change the world, but even so, it's refreshing to see a big developer like HAL take a gamble on such a quirky little experiment.

4.5 /5

Box Boy 3DS Review: It's Hip to be Square Bob Mackey HAL Laboratory puts an unexpectedly fresh spin on block-based puzzles in this quirky 3DS eShop release. 2015-04-07T19:00:00-04:00 4.5 5

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 12

Comments on this article are now closed. Thanks for taking part!

  • Avatar for unoclay #1 unoclay 3 years ago
    Awesome review. I like minimalist games like this and quick puzzlers that can fill my spare time (i'm still working on level 9 of 1001 Spikes, for example). I'm probably gonna play it based on your commentary.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for gillijack #2 gillijack 3 years ago
    I've been working my way through this game, and it is incredibly fun and charming. Listen to Bob, Lattes are fleeting, Boxboy is forever. (Unless you lose your 3DS that is, because Nintendo still doesn't have a unified account system.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Sturat #3 Sturat 3 years ago
    It was a pleasant surprise to hear its US release right on the release day! I'm definitely enjoying this so far.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for inkphantom #4 inkphantom 3 years ago
    So nice to see people talking about this game. I downloaded it the other day and haven't been able to put it down. The puzzles so far are perfect - simple enough to get through with a few minutes of experimenting, complex enough to make you feel like a boss when you complete them. 100% agree with this review.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for hiptanaka #5 hiptanaka 3 years ago
    I downloaded this yesterday, and ended up playing the first six worlds in one go. Very cool game, but I hope it really pushes the mechanics and gets trickier before it ends. There has only been one moment where I really got stuck for a while, trying to get a crown.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #6 Captain-Gonru 3 years ago
    I'll be getting this once a). I get my N3DS to accept the info from my old one, and b). we get some word on the successor to Club Nintendo.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for aros #7 aros 3 years ago
    Ill pick this up after my next payday as im a big HAL Laboratory fan and happy to support new IP from them. Hopefully Nintendo let all studios produce small downloadable games where they might find IP with retail potential.

    IMO Pushmo World should have received a budget £15/$25 retail release to reward its success.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for aros #8 aros 3 years ago
    That said, the Pushmo character is surely nailed on for the next All Stars game Nintendo produces, whether another Smash Bros or (hopefully) Nintendo All Stars Racing.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Mega_Matt #9 Mega_Matt 3 years ago
    I want this.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for tenderbrew #10 tenderbrew 3 years ago
    Just picked this up last night. Pretty sweet game. Slow starter, but the puzzles are starting to get more interesting.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for thanks01 #11 thanks01 3 years ago
    My names are Alice Wayne am from USA, Here is my testimony about this amazing spell caster, he is willing to help solve all your problems. I was a bit skeptical but he told me to have a faith so I decided to give it try. He helped me get my ex back. So if you have Any problem you need help with here his e-mail okpatempleofsolution@gmail.com His name is Okpa He will help you no matter What your problem is. I am grateful for his help. Again his e-mail is okpatempleofsolution@gmail.com His cellphone number is +2348056563186

    Give him a try you will not regret it.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Xboxboy #12 Xboxboy 2 years ago
    The microsoft has been signing up for xbox one since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos xbox one program where you win every month four games for xbox one. The microsoft has been signing up for xbox one since the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the xbox one melhores jogos program where you win every month four games for xbox one.The microsoft has been signing up for xbox one since the birth of the service, of console games: want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos para xbox one program where you win every month four games for xbox one.Edited 2 times. Last edited October 2017 by Xboxboy
    Sign in to Reply

Comments

Close