When BoxBoy! was released on the Nintendo 3DS in April 2015, few gamers envisioned it morphing into a multi-game franchise spanning years and systems. BoxBoy! became a sleeper hit on the 3DS and fit perfectly onto the system alongside the eShop’s other simple, addicting puzzle games. The Nindie Direct earlier this year promised us BoxBoy’s debut on the Nintendo Switch, along with new (and likewise simply named) friend, BoxGirl. BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! sticks to the winning formula seen in previous entries, but the new skills and game modes may not do enough to validate the pricetag.
Title: BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Game Purchased for the Purpose of This Review
In BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!, you take control of Qbby or Qucy, the game’s protagonists. Short (and voiceless) cutscenes guide you through a simple story of world-ending madness, somehow saved by the cube-shaped protagonists as they beat levels and obtain glowing cube fragments. Luckily, you probably aren’t playing BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! for the story. Each stage contains a short room or hallway where Qbby or Qucy must utilize their control over duplicating their body to reach the door at the end. Along the way, you will learn new techniques and controls over the cubes you create to reach high platforms, activate triggers, and dodge perils in your path. If you’ve played a game in this series before, you are already familiar with the basic concept of gameplay, which this game adheres to faithfully.
BoxBoy’s new entry does feature a few small additions that help to separate this game from its predecessors. As mentioned previously, skills learned along the way will aid you in your quest and are satisfying to learn and use in their respective levels. The simple graphics of the characters and foreground are complimented with a bright, colorful, abstract background of slowly shifting shapes and spheres that nicely offsets the monochromatic focus and provides a welcome addition to this game’s atmosphere.
Most notable and praiseworthy to the introductions of the series is the new game modes. As the title of the game suggests, BoxBoy and BoxGirl costar in this adventure and are both playable in the couch co-op A Tale of Two game mode. The Nintendo Switch hardware shines again in this mode, as the simple controls translate perfectly to the individual joycons that you can separate from the console and share with a partner. The new puzzles feel fresh, and the simple puzzle-based nature of the game means that nearly anybody can join in the fun with very little video game experience. If you and a friend enjoyed Snipperclips, then you’ll find the same flavor of delight here.
My personal favorite new game mode is unlocked after beating the campaign and is named A Tall Tale, starring a new character, Qudy. Qudy is a rectangular-shaped box and provides the biggest shift in terms of gameplay this series has seen yet. Qudy can duplicate his body shape in either horizontal or vertical orientations, and doing both is essential to completing most levels. This simple change of structure and problem-solving challenges the mind in ways that equilateral cubes do not and provided challenges that I had been hungry for when starting this game. Qudy’s campaign, though abbreviated, is the true shining moment of BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!, and would ideally have been separated into a fully-realized game of its own. I genuinely hope Qudy makes a return in the future or, even better, stars in his own installment on the Switch.
Unfortunately, the satisfying feeling of completing puzzles, earning currency for in-game cosmetic items, reaching new worlds, and learning new skills is over far too soon. The main campaign lasts no longer than five hours, with the supplementary rectangular and cooperative campaigns ending in less than that. Not only does the game end quickly, but each level almost seems too short, and the game is mostly a walk in the park for the experienced gamer. Very few levels in the game took more than a couple of tries for me. Coincidentally enough, those levels became my favorites because I was looking for challenging puzzles to solve, but they were too far and few between.
The game even includes an easily accessible hint mode just in case the puzzles aren’t simple enough. A little more challenge can be gleaned from clearing each level efficiently with the least amount of boxes possible, but your only rewards for this will be more of the underutilized and already plentiful currency. Perhaps a progression system of unlocking worlds based upon amount of badges earned from previous levels would challenge players to think more strategically about their box placement, and even increase level replay value.
The new skills you learn along your journey are a lot of fun to use, but these too are woefully underemployed. In most scenarios, you are given just enough chances to really understand a skills mechanics before that world ends and you are ushered into a new world with a new skill. You sadly get few chances to use these skills in combinations outside of the final few levels of the game, which are the most fun of the entire playthrough. In this light, ninety percent of the game plays out like an overly long tutorial, annoyingly holding your hand through every step and rarely letting you gain any experience or expertise. No level of mastery is expected of the player to complete this game, and I often felt as though victory was gifted to me rather than earned.
BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is a fun and interesting game concept that could have been a wonderful entrance for the characters onto Nintendo’s new platform, but falls short in game length and exploration of its mechanics. I enjoyed the time I spent with the game, but did not ultimately feel that the total experience justified the $9.99 price point. With Nintendo’s recent foray into mobile games, I can’t help but wonder whether these characters and this franchise wouldn’t be more appropriate to represent Nintendo in that market. For me, this game shines in short play sessions. If you’re already a fan of BoxBoy, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. If you’re interested in trying BoxBoy for the first time, I suggest waiting for an eShop sale or at the very least having a friend handy to get the best value this game has to offer.
6.5 / 10