BOXBOY! Review – Cubic Hair

The Kirby team trades balls for cubes in this inviting puzzle-platformer.

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Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: 3DS
Released: April 2, 2015
Copy purchased

BOXBOY! is the kind of game that makes me feel like a bad reviewer, because all I want to do is tell you why it’s fun. I can’t adequately explain what, exactly, is so fun about it – the vast majority of its puzzles are fairly simple, and even if you get stuck, the game offers hints (in exchange for 3DS Play Coins) to lay out the solution plainly. It’s a puzzle game that won’t often puzzle you. Nevertheless, it’s joyful stuff, and even if you won’t get a mental workout from it, the clever scenarios and elegant design are simply enchanting to experience.

Qbby is a cute little square with two dots for eyes and a pair of stick legs. He walks, he jumps, and he has the power to make less sentient squares sprout out of his body. Using his cloning abilities, Qbby can create platforms, allowing him to reach higher ground, or blocks with which to keep buttons pressed and doors open. It’s one of those neat ideas that is simple in practice, but flexible enough to be spun in a number of unique and clever ways.

Every world – comprising seven stages – is themed around a particular exploitation of the central premise. For example, Qbby’s squares can also be used as shields, built around himself to protect from lasers. By extending the squares from his body, and then retracting them back into himself, a hook-shaped formation may be utilized to grapple and climb ledges. Across seventeen core worlds, a single gimmick is built upon and evolved to incorporate all sorts of tricks, as gravity fields are used to pull blocks around the map, Lemming-like spiky creatures are guided to goals with Qbby’s platforms, and blockades are eliminated, Tetris-style, by filling in blank spaces.

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Optional crowns can be collected in each stage for bonus rewards, and they disappear if you create and toss around more blocks than needed to complete the challenges. That’s the only real restriction, and even then you can safely experiment with block formations and press the shoulder buttons to restart from a generous checkpoint – there’s plenty of opportunity to rehearse a puzzle before doing it for real. There are no time limits, and death is a mere slap on the wrist – should Qbby fall in a pit or get fried by electricity, he’ll respawn right at the current puzzle’s start point. The idea is to relax, mess around, and have that aforementioned fun – something BOXBOY! is quite adept at providing.

Completing each stage nets a whole bunch of medals – with a bonus for collecting all the crowns – which can be spent in the shop on Qbby costumes, music tracks, tip manuals, and a series of Time Attack or Score Attack stages. The shop’s contents are drip-fed as main worlds are completed, and I really do wish there were more aesthetic choices. There’s a great selection of bonus missions to beat, but the costumes are thin on the ground – a minor complaint, but when Qbby looks as adorable as he does while dressed like a devil or bunny, it makes me wish there had been a wider selection of customization options.

Still, there’s a lot of content for a humble five buck game. As well as the seventeen worlds and challenges, there are post-game missions to enjoy, taking the simple ideas of the main game and expounding on them even more. Each stage itself shouldn’t take much more than a minute to complete, which makes it well suited to the portable space – it’s exactly the kind of game you can have a quick go on while waiting somewhere in public, or just need a brief distraction from the horrors of real life.

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Eschewing the 3DS’ 3D capabilities entirely, HAL has opted for a straight 2D game with a bold, clear visual style. Everything’s got a monochrome look, with thick outlines detailing characters and objects, and solid ground rendered in pure black. It’s easy to work out what everything is from a simple glance, and I find something quite beautiful about the minimalism of it all. Some praise must be reserved for the soundtrack too, a lovely little selection of pleasant plinks and plonks that keep everything cheerful, even while some of the game’s subtle visual moments appear relatively dark and tragic.

While not a thoroughly outstanding game, BOXBOY! is an eminently pleasant, breezy little puzzle-platformer that offers some moderate challenge and focuses more on just having a nice time. A fuss-free, no-pressure adventure that takes a plain gimmick and showcases just how versatile it can be.

And it’s just too damn darling for its own good.

8/10
Great

SpongeBork
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SpongeBork

I really need to get a 3DS it seems :/

Logan Graham
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Logan Graham

Are you going to review MonsterBox on Vita too?

Shayne
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Shayne

Do you mean Monsterbag? I thought it was a charming little game! weird difficulty curve though.

Spencer
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Spencer

Jim, is “jimquisition.com” (NOT “THEjimquisition.com”) an April Fools prank of yours or something one of your detractors came up with?

Greg
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Greg

It’s been around longer than thejimquisition.com has been, but I don’t think anyone knows the exact story behind it.

Kamadecoco
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Kamadecoco

It’s a shitty card game website.
Nothing spectacular. Just lewd.

Scott Glasgow
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Scott Glasgow
I don’t have a 3DS so go ahead and take my opinion with a grain of salt. Actually it’s more a question than an opinion. How do games like this get a critical pass while tons of really good quality flash platformers being release daily get completely ignored. Jim, if you enjoyed this, take a look at pretty much anything from Nitrome’s library. It this squarely to do with the fact that it was made by HAL Labs? Or is there some other reason that it’s getting press? I wish I could play it just do inform my own opinion… Read more »
BAH!
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BAH!

I’d hazard a guess that it’s because BOXBOY! is an advertised retail (download) title, and the other games you alluded to… aren’t?

Stephen
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Stephen

I was super surprised to see Jim review this game, but was happy to see it get a good score. The game looks really cool, and I look forward to playing it. Glad to know that I have something pleasant to look forward to!

LilSlugger
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LilSlugger

From Kirby to Qbby, eh? Cute. Cute cute cute.

Enuo
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Enuo

The Kirby team doesn’t cut corners.

Abbi
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Abbi

Played thru this the first 2 days it was out, I was really pleased with it 🙂 Only thing that bothered me is that the unlockable bunny costume let me cheese so many of the final puzzles, but it was too cute to take off! Though I suppose that’s entirely on me 😡
Good one HAL!

Sergio
Guest

Hal is a fantastic game studio they rarely let down. I can’t think of a game with their name on it that was bad.

VGFreak1225
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VGFreak1225

It would be perhaps a tad bit hypocritical of me to pass a HAL Laboratory game up for being easy while also being a dedicated Kirby fan, and it’s $5 to boot. I’m in.

That Guy
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That Guy

Still waiting for that review on “Grand Theft Pizza Delivery”.

BAH!
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BAH!

I admit I was intrigued when I saw this game showcased in the last Nintendo Direct. Nice to know it’s as good as it looked. I may even pick it up some time… as though I need *even more* games to not play.