June 30, 2016.
Released in April last year, Hal Laboratory’s BOXBOY! was a lovely, serene puzzle-platform experience. It wasn’t a long game, nor was it exactly taxing, but it was pleasant and charming. The brief for its sequel is obvious: give us more BOX BOY!
For those not in the know, the first game saw you guiding a sentient square through short, monochromatic, hazard-filled levels, moving from obstacle to obstacle by using his ability to create tetrominos to get from A to B. Along the way you’ll find your path blocked by lasers, spikes and gravity wells which will constantly challenge you to work out new and inventive ways to use the techniques you have learned.
And this new game is more of that. New mechanics are constantly introduced before being whisked away to teach you something different. You’ll constantly find that just as you’re getting used to the way something works you’ll have finished the set of levels you’re on and then have to find yourself thinking about a different system once again. It gives a hyperactive feeling to the design of the game, like the developers just couldn’t sit on something for too long before they ask you to consider something else.
What is different about the sequel is that Qbby can now create two sets of blocks. This new ability doesn’t really change up the formula as much as you may think, you’ll still use the same techniques that you used in the original, but now you’ll be combining them together on a regular basis. A welcome change this has brought is that now it feels more like there are multiple ways to get past certain puzzles. Many a time I fudged my way past something rather than used the route the designers intended.
During the campaign the game will introduce two other characters, Square girl and Rectangle, but never does anything with them apart from make them follow you around the overworld. It’s a shame HAL couldn’t figure out new abilities for them to have, and create some puzzles around them; maybe that’s something for the next sequel, or possibly a spin-off? We can only hope.
One of the main flaw from the first game was the wildly inconsistent difficulty and this new two stack mechanic hasn’t really done anything to fix that. You’ll still find yourself breezing through many of the puzzles, and then find yourself stumped on one solution before finding the next a complete cakewalk.
Struggling with a puzzle isn’t terrible though thanks to the returning hint mode, which flashes the solution to you, but leaves you to work out how to actually achieve it. You’ll pay for these using your 3DS’ Play Coin currency. In each level there are Crowns to collect, and they can only be gained if stick to your block allocation. As soon as you go over it the crown is lost and you need to start again, but collecting it at least means that you are then free to finish the level without a restraint on the amount of blocks you use. However, Hint Mode only shows you the solution to get through the level, not to get the crown(s), this encourages you to think outside the box (heh) and figure out your own solution, you’ll frequently figure out the level pretty easily, but find getting the crown to be another matter entirely.
If you haven’t played the original, it’s worth getting it before you play this, not only because learning the techniques is incredibly handy, but because the costumes you unlocked before will be available here, and more become available as you play through. There’s a bunch of music and comics to unlock too; the latter while not exactly being the height of comedy material, are at least as silly and charming as the main game itself.
What HAL Labs has given us here is more of BOX BOY!. It’s only slightly better, but it’s good while it lasts. It’s also very inexpensive too, so you’ll get a lot of enjoyment for very little cash.
Great hint system
Difficulty is still inconsistent
If you like a good puzzle game, BOX BOX BOY!, like its predecessor offers excellent value for money.