Looking back at the excellent and extensive Nintendo 3DS library, the BoxBoy! trilogy stands out as one of its best little surprises. Visually simple these puzzle-platformers instead stood out for their adorable charm, smart level design and unique ideas. For lead character Qbby’s first venture on the Nintendo Switch, he’s now decided to bring the family along too with BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! a somewhat safe but nonetheless enjoyable sequel.
Just like previous entries in the series, this is a 2D puzzler with elements of platforming (albeit very basic). You take on the role of Qbby, (as well as two other characters who we’ll get to later) a small square with legs and eyes whose acrobatic ability may leave a lot to be desired but makes up for these shortcomings thanks to a pretty special ability. By holding a button he can produce boxes around him in a snake-like fashion that can then be used to help traverse the 270-odd obstacle-filled stages found within the game. How many you are able to manifest at once varies from level to level allowing for a range of helpful shapes to be created both big and small. A simple trio of boxes in a backwards ‘L’ figure, for example, makes for a handy set of steps while latter examples may see you crafting seven or eight box constructions.
As you progress through the game you’ll slowly learn abilities that then open the door for new puzzling opportunities. One, for example, lets you create a pogo stick of sorts with your boxes making it possible to then hop across dangerous obstacles. Another meanwhile lets Qbby travel through his created snake of boxes so long as its end is resting on another surface making for a handy way of getting up top to higher, out of reach places.
Each of the game’s story modes feature little in the way of… well, actual story beside a few cute dialogue-free cut scenes. They quickly set the stage (which I appreciate) and let you dip right into the action. Levels are then split into “worlds” all accessible through doors within a hub. Each “world” usually focuses on a particular idea such as deadly lasers, buttons that need holding down to open doors or springs that can launch Qbby or your boxes. The first level or two will introduce you to the newly added element while the remaining half dozen will continue to use it in increasingly challenging situations. The game’s insistence of moving from one idea to the next within just a handful of levels is actually rather refreshing and keeps the pace feeling snappy. You never have a chance to grow tired of something because you’ve already moved onto something new.
While the story mode offers a good mix of obstacles and abilities to keep you entertained throughout it is a little disappointing to see that the box specific powers from Bye-Bye BoxBoy! have not made a return. For veterans, it may feel like a step back but then again it does make the game feel like it would be more accessible for newcomers. Whichever way you view it, it’s the next mode that should easily cater for those after a new hook from the series.
For the first time in BoxBoy! you’re now able to tackle puzzles as a team in a separate co-op mode (which can also be played with one person switching between each character), a refreshing addition and one that feels perfectly suited to the BoxBoy! formula. Here levels demand players work together whether it’s building bridges, one player hitting a switch for the other or combining boxes together to form a set of steps or other helpful shapes. Playing with my wife easily provided some of the game’s most enjoyable and downright funniest moments. While playing alone is certainly functional it’s clear joining forces with another person is the way this mode is best experienced.
If you happen to be approaching co-op after sampling the single player, you’ll definitely feel a certain sense of déjà vu with some levels offering similar if not same layouts and ideas. Still, there’s plenty of content here that takes great advantage of having two characters and I can only hope the series keeps this feature going forward.
The game’s difficulty does a great job balancing between accessible and rewarding. Rarely did we find ourselves stumped for too long on how to progress through a level, with a solution – while not always the most efficient one – never more than a few attempts away. In fact, getting through to each story’s end is a rather chilled affair. The real challenge lies in trying to gather each level’s collectible crowns or limiting the number of boxes you use. The former will often need you to reach tricky out-of-the-way areas while the latter require effective use of every box used. Thanks to the game’s snappy reset function, undoing mistakes or trying out a new approach was always quick and kept the pace chugging along.
The in-game currency you quickly earn from accomplishing a level’s target can then be used to purchase a range of small extras including music, individual collecting challenges, comics and perhaps best of all costumes. It’s surprising how much fun I had kitting out Qbby and the rest of the crew with capes, whiskers and VR headsets.
Even after making your way through the rather substantial single player and co-op story modes there’s one more unlockable extra to try that sees you taking on the role of Qudy the rectangle. Due to his unique elongated shape, Qudy’s block-producing ability paves the way for some rather fresh and inventive puzzles. It’s a shorter offering but really just the cherry on top of what is an already satisfying package.
The move from 3DS to Switch for BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! has seen the visuals get a subtle upgrade. It still sports the same simplistic black and white look with limited color here and there albeit this time in higher definition. While I still enjoy the game’s cutesy charm what I’m not so much a fan of are the moments where the frame rate would struggle. While not game-breaking it’s surprising especially considering this isn’t exactly a powerhouse in the graphics department.
BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is yet another joyous outing for the series packed with content sure to please newcomers and returning fans alike. Its core gameplay may not have evolved much since the original 3DS trilogy but the addition of co-op takes things in an interesting direction that feels perfectly suited for the Switch and leaves me excited to see where HAL Laboratory take Qbby next.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo