What happens when you take a bit of Mario and cross it with a bit of Tetris? You get the cutest little box-person in the world.
Box Boy is the story of a square (the titular Box Boy), his girlfriend (a square that has a bow and eyelashes a la Ms. Pac-Man), and their rectangle friend. One day a catastrophe happens and the world starts coming apart. Only by entering 17 different worlds can Box Boy collect the special super-boxes he needs to save his cubical world.
One of the most endearing things about this game is just how cute Box Boy is despite being little more than a blank cube. His eyes squint and his body shakes as he creates boxes; and his little stick-figure legs dangle limply whenever he is off the ground. And that's just the default Box Boy.
By progressing through the game, you find treasure chests with new costumes to purchase with the cash you get for beating each stage. These range from a backwards cap or a knight’s helm to a superhero cloak or the world's manliest mustache. They're all simply delightful.
Each level of Box Boy has the same, singular objective: get to the end of the stage. To do this you must spawn blocks out of Box Boy. Each level allows him to spawn a different amount of boxes at once—from as many as eight to as few as three. You then arrange these boxes in a shape of your choice to allow you to overcome various obstacles. There are some rules, however—the biggest of which is that you can never spawn a box directly below Box Boy. You'd be surprised how much harder that makes the vast majority of challenges.
At first you are just creating blocks and throwing them, often to make stairs. Then you move on to more complex moves, like using an L-block attached to Box Boy's head to hook a ledge and then retract yourself up. In truth, there are a lot of different things you can do with Box Boy's powers.
Luckily this game is excellent about teaching you when to use each box ability—despite the game lacking text inside the game's levels. Instead the game teaches you through thought balloons whenever a new power is first needed. However, that is for only the most basic moves. The rest are taught through the game's excellent level design. Often, the first puzzle in a level will be stupidly basic to get you in the mindset of how you'll need to use his powers. Thus, only once did I ever get stuck while playing. Other than that, I always knew what powers I needed to use to solve each puzzle room, even if I didn't immediately know the exact solution.
Another point in the game’s favor is that, even after learning all the possible ways to use your boxes, the game never feels repetitive. This is because each world has a new and different key obstacle to overcome. These obstacles range from buttons you need to press and circuits you need to complete to crane game-style claws and gravity-defying conveyor belts. Moreover, each world’s individual stages use its world’s respective obstacle in new and typically more complex ways as you play—and just when you get a hand on how to master an obstacle, you beat the world and a new one is introduced.
There are two ways to play each level in Box Boy: one is simply going straight for the end while the other involves collecting the one or two crowns placed in each stage. Not only are these crowns often a bit harder to acquire, but they also disappear if you use too many boxes before picking them up. Luckily, the levels are filled with checkpoints, and pressing the shoulder buttons on the 3DS controller at any time will instantly pop you back to the last one you passed so you can try again. Thus there are really two difficulties of the stage going on at once and you can pick whichever you enjoy more.
For completing each stage, you are given a number of coins to use at the game’s store—and a bonus amount if you manage to grab the crowns. Available for purchase are the aforementioned cute costumes as well as the game’s music tracks for your listening pleasure. There are also time and score attack levels on sale to add more replay value to the game.
Moreover, like several recent Nintendo titles, beating the game unlocks additional content—this time in the form of several more complete worlds. Each of these is far harder than the main game and gives box-building masters a final challenge as a reward.
While on the 3DS, Box Boy is a game that feels like a love letter to the original Game Boy. Its color palette is black and white (though with an occasional touch of red), and the gameplay itself only uses the D-pad and two of the face buttons. Heck, the only purpose for the bottom screen is to remind you how many blocks you can make at a time and how many more blocks you can make before the crowns disappear. And after spending many hours with it, let me tell you, it feels like playing a lost classic.
Box Boy is a great little game—easily the best 680 yen ($5.76) I have spent on gaming in years. It’s cute, fun, and perfectly balances its puzzles and platforming. If you are looking for some Game Boy-style nostalgia or are just looking for some serious bang for your buck (and own a Japanese 3DS, of course), be sure to pick up this one from the eShop.
Box Boy (ハコボーイ) was released on the 3DS eShop in Japan on January 14, 2015. There is currently no word on an international release.
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