Sometimes you just need something simple in your life. Boxboy!, from HAL Laboratory of Kirby fame, is all about simple. From the black and white visuals to the simple geometry of the characters and environments, the game oozes a minimalist style. But while the game may seem straightforward, the key to Boybox! is…well, thinking outside the box.
As one might imagine, the game stars a square-shaped fellow with the ability to sprout boxes out of his body. Boxboy! revolves around the timeless quest of moving from the left side of the screen to the right, but in true video game style, the environment is less than cooperative. Thankfully, spawning boxes happens to be the perfect solution for navigating all the obstacles Boxboy encounters. From lasers to bottomless pits, there’s nothing a couple of boxes can’t handle. The core gameplay of Boxboy! requires you to analyze your surroundings and execute the best possible box-related solution.
Boxboy! may look simple, but it has lots of tricks up its sleeve. Clever box placement allows the Boxboy to traverse his environment in a variety of different ways, from making platforms to scaling walls like a snake. Each level slowly doles out different situations that allow you to discover new ways you can manipulate your boxes to get around. It’s neat because you technically have access to all of these moves the entire game, but you don’t realize the Boxboy’s true potential until the situation calls for it. Mastering and recalling these maneuvers make up a huge part of what makes the game fun.
On top of those basic movement options, each world in Boxboy! introduces a unique environmental mechanic to the mix. The constantly changing rules ensure that the basics of box placing don’t get old. Although I was intimately familiar with just about every maneuver I could do by the second half of the game, I constantly had to rethink how to apply those principles to the current environment. Variety is always nice to have in games, but in Boxboy!’s case, it’s almost as important as the core mechanics.
As fun and varied as Boxboy! is, it’s not a difficult game by any means. Checkpoints are frequent and unlimited. While there are a few times where you’ll have to stop and stare at the screen until you think of a way to get to the exit, the main challenge comes from picking up the three optional collectibles thrown into each stage. What makes these collectibles interesting is that they disappear if you spawn too many boxes on your way to collecting them, effectively forcing you to be more conservative and risky in your box placement. The collectibles don’t substantially increase the difficulty, but I enjoyed how they changed the way I thought about my actions.
While Boxboy! may not make you sweat, there’s a surprising amount of content to keep you entertained. The main campaign went on longer than I was expecting it to be, and when you’re done there’s still a bunch of extra levels to visit. I’m a big fan of the Time Attack stages in particular, because they force you think on your feet in a way the normal game doesn’t.
In the age of mobile games, Boxboy! gives a nice reminder that smaller games can not only be fun, but also satisfying. Boxboy! is both well paced and constantly doles out surprises, and the core mechanic of box placing is a super interesting tool. It helps that the game has a rather charming aesthetic, too. There’s a lot more I could praise here, but I’ll keep things in the simple spirit of the game and end by saying that Boxboy! is definitely worth your time.
Food for Thought:
1. I really like all of the different costumes the Boxboy can wear. There’s something really charming about taking such a simple character and putting a bunch of weird goofy stuff on him. The rapper costume with the “cool guy” sunglasses is probably my favorite.
2. I tried using hints a couple of times just to try them out, but they’re pretty useless. For one, they are location dependent; they only tell you how to reach the next “step” for the part of the area you’re currently standing in. I used up about two coins not realizing that the part of the level I wanted a solution for was actually multiple obvious box placements away from where I was currently standing, so I pretty much wasted the hints. Additionally, they don’t seem to tell you how to collect to the three bonus items, which are the truly challenging part of the stage. I guess I shouldn’t care too much since the hints are just optional cheats in a game that I didn’t really need hints for in the first place, but I still feel like my Play Coins got robbed.