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fight for the top 50

Is Box Boy! One Of The Top 50 Games Of 2015?

by Ben Reeves on Nov 27, 2015 at 02:00 PM

Box Boy! might be one of the most overlooked games of the year. A simple black and white aesthetic belies the game's more complicated puzzles. Developed by HAL Laboratory – the same studio that has brought us games like Kirby and Super Smash Bros., Box Boy! is a puzzle game about a young box who can create Tetris-like shapes above his head and then use them to navigate the environment and solve puzzles.

Every year we assess which games will make our Top 50, and Box Boy! is highly underrated and underplayed. Mike Futter seems like the kind of guy who likes to play a lot of different things, and I think that Box Boy!’s overall charm and creative puzzle design will win him over. Find out if he’s a supporter in our conversation below.

Ben: Box Boy! came out of the middle of nowhere for me. I didn’t even know that HAL Laboratory was working on the game, but when Nintendo showed off the game during one of its Directs earlier in the year, it immediately caught my eye. I can’t even tell you why – the game isn’t that visually impressive, and it’s hard to convey its puzzles in a video. However, something about it stuck with me, and I immediately knew I was going to love HAL Laboratory’s little 3DS game. Were you as immediately charmed by Box Boy! as I was, Mike?

Mike: I wasn’t at first, but it started to grow on me quickly. The intro levels, which serve as a tutorial, go on a bit too long. It’s only later that I realized how important it was that HAL Laboratories conveyed the fundamentals up front. Each new world of seven stages adds something new and requires combination of the things you’ve learned along the way. It’s only when I got to the point that I started mixing skills did I start to find myself enjoying it as I do all puzzle games: by cursing at it.

That said, it’s extremely fair. The game checkpoints well, restarting once you figure out a puzzle to ensure you have enough blocks to capture the optional crowns in each stage is speedy, and dying doesn’t feel onerous. That keeps the focus on the puzzles and not on the technical stuff around it.

I’m curious if it grabbed you immediately or if it clicked a little later for you.

Ben: I think it clicked with me fairly quickly, but I can recognize that it did start a little slow. One thing that impresses me looking back is how the mechanics never really got that complicated. Some of the puzzles (especially the optional stages at the end) offer a good challenge, but the basics of the game are pretty straightforward. You’re able to build a set number of boxes over your head and then use them to help you solve these unique platforming puzzles. I don’t think I ever grew tired of building a hook over my head and then using that to grab onto ledges above me that you could then zip up to.

Mike: Box Boy! definitely makes you dig deep into the Tetris part of your brain. His adventure makes you think strategically about where the shapes you create need to end up and, in many instances, how you need to use them for protection from lasers and spikes.

As you mention, a lot of the puzzles rely on the highly satisfying “snake” maneuver that allow you to zip up your box chain to otherwise unreachable ledges or through narrow spaces. Part of what I love about Box Boy! is that it offers something new in the puzzle genre. It’s not just a rehash. I’ve played a chunk of it (I’m on World 8), but I suspect there’s a bit more left to uncover.

Ben: Yeah, there are 22 worlds in total, but many of those are bonus level, so you can beat the game several worlds before that. I dug the game so much that I hit the 100% mark. You actually get a king costume when you do that. Speaking of costumes, I found the bunny costume really useful, because it adds some extra height to your jump. The Merlin costume is also great, because it lets you create one extra box. Unfortunately, those costumes come pretty late in the game. Did you mess around with those costumes much?

Mike: I did. As soon as I got the sunglasses, I put them on. Box Boy! is currently repping the superhero life in my game, with a cape. I’m enjoying the game, and I definitely plan on finishing it, but one thing keeps nagging at me. Just what the heck IS Box Boy!? Are the boxes his children? Is he pooping boxes out the top of his head? I can’t stop thinking about it. Do you know, Ben?! Tell me!

Ben: Those boxes are dead bodies of versions of himself from alternate realities. The story is a little thin, so you have to read between the lines a bit. Overall, I hope that you keep going with this game. I think the closing missions are a good head scratcher, but also really satisfying. I liked having to create a series of boxes to connect electrical currents, and there are a bunch of other fun challenges that I don’t want to ruin for you here.

Mike’s Verdict: I definitely plan on continuing with it the way I have been enjoying it so far: a few stages at a time. Box Boy! has my support for the Top 50 vote, but only up to a point. The field is so crowded this year, that I might be hard pressed to push it in favor of some of the other games in the challenge. I definitely like it more than a number of them, though. Is it a game you should play? Definitely, especially at the affordable $5 price point. Is it one of the best 50 games of this year? That’s going to be a gametime decision for me.