BOXBOY! (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Lex Firth 31.05.2015

Review for BOXBOY! on Nintendo 3DS

HAL Laboratory may be well known for birthing the Kirby franchise over 20 years ago, but they're no strangers to trying something new, having also helmed SNES cult classic EarthBound and the Super Smash Bros. series since then. Now it appears they're heading back to their roots with BOXBOY!, an eShop game that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Game Boy's Kirby's Dream Land.

The game's general design is incredibly reminiscent of the pink puffball's first adventure. From the black and white aesthetic to the titular hero's simplistic design, it's clear that HAL is paying tribute to their greatest success story. Where the game differs immensely, however, is in its gameplay, providing a fantastic change of pace from the chaotic Kirby platformers they're known for to this ambient puzzle-platformer.

The hero, Qbby (pronounced "cubee"), is just as the title suggests - a boy made of boxes. With the Y button he can create new boxes, and this power is used to the maximum throughout the game's many puzzles. Qbby's platforming skills are average at best - he's unable to clear jumps that Mario could, for instance - and as a result he relies on boxes to act as footstools and grappling hooks to grab onto ledges, as well as covering spikes and laser beams, plus a host of other inventive uses. BOXBOY! is consistently surprising with the ways it employs its key mechanic, adding new uses for the boxes in each world (of which there are over 20), presenting some ingenious challenges along the way.

These complex ideas are hidden masterfully behind a simplistic design. The monochrome graphics, immediately reminiscent of the Game Boy, will evoke nostalgia in Nintendo's older fans, while the soundtrack, opting for ambient chiptune, creates a cosy atmosphere to make the puzzles engaging. It's at odds with offerings that many will be used to from Nintendo, such as Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8, which went for the "bigger is better" approach; BOXBOY! is unashamedly minimalistic, taking cues from indie games such as NightSky and Limbo, with a focus on charm, atmosphere and world-building above the three-ring circus of triple-A titles.

Screenshot for BOXBOY! on Nintendo 3DS

It's a brave step for Nintendo to go so directly against their self-set status quo, and one that pays off with fantastic results. BOXBOY! is as addictive as it is refreshing, with the puzzles always remaining just difficult enough to satiate players, but not to infuriate them. A hint function is integrated perfectly so that it presents the final solution to a puzzle without explaining in depth the method to obtaining it, thereby not robbing those who fall back on it of the sense of accomplishment that comes from passing these obstacles, keeping them engrossed and involved at all times.

It's a short-lived experience, as most eShop games are, but one that is enriched with an impressive range of extra features. Special crowns can be collected in each level to satisfy completionists, while jewels (earned simply by completing stages) give Qbby access to the shop where he can buy pieces of the fantastic soundtrack, addictively challenging Time and Score Attack missions, and - likely to be the most popular addition - a range of costumes. Qbby can dress up as a rapper, a superhero, or even a bunny rabbit, providing a welcome dimension of humour to what could be perceived as an otherwise quite bleak game.

Story-wise, Qbby's adventures hardly rival the epics, but are nevertheless told eloquently and touchingly, with a cryptic but heart-warming ending being the icing on top of a substantial bun.

BOXBOY!, then, represents something of a turning point for Nintendo, who appears to have stepped away from what could arguably be described as a dearth of creativity, plagued with lifeless New Super Mario Bros. instalments and endless sequels, which, though excellently-made, were devoid of the originality for which the company are so revered. Between this, new IP Splatoon, and some interesting wool- and clay-based takes on existing franchises, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the direction in which Nintendo is heading, and BOXBOY! is worth the asking price for that alone. Fortunately, it also stands up well on its own - it's a refreshing, charming addition to the eShop, providing plenty of unique and rewarding puzzle-solving action that shouldn't be missed.

Screenshot for BOXBOY! on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

BOXBOY! is a real winner for the eShop. Its simple design and perfectly-balanced difficulty level mean that it's sure to resonate with players of all skill levels, and whether it's being chipped away at during morning commutes or digested in its entirety over a weekend, Qbby's tale shows that a minimalistic game can be just as satisfying as a triple-A title.

Developer

HAL Laboratory

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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