Boxboy comes from HAL Laboratory, the minds behind Kirby, but you wouldn’t know by looking at it. Both games share protagonists based on geometric shapes, but Boxboy’s stark world and puzzles contrast sharply against the bubbly pink circle the developer is known for.
You control a square boy with the difficult to pronounce game Qbby who is capable of creating a limited number of boxes to help reach the end of each level. He can use these boxes to create bridges, avoid obstacles, or make stairs to climb tall ledges. The boxes have a number of alternate uses as well, but part of the fun of the game is figuring them out and applying them to the environment.
This is a puzzle game first and foremost, and with its sparse black-and-white aesthetic, it focuses purely on compelling puzzle design. The early levels are simple enough, drip-feeding you new obstacles and giving you the opportunity to bypass them in a number of different ways. It does a great job pacing out the assorted obstacles one by one, eventually wrapping them together during the final levels.
An extra optional incentive exists in each level to collect crowns by limiting the number of boxes you use on your way to the goal. The crowns award additional money to buy outfits, challenges, and music. Initially, I was turned off by the restriction related to collecting these desirable bonuses, but the allowance of boxes is always ample, and checkpoints are friendly all the way up to the end. It requires extra thought to get all the crowns, but I never hit a point where I completely abandoned the task due to frustration, which is perfect for those with the completionist itch like me.
The hardest of Boxboy’s levels are reserved for after the credits. Everything before the credits represents a totally satisfying puzzle experience, but if you want more, a whole new collection of levels open after completion. They’re totally optional, and they left me staring at Boxboy’s adorable idle animations, scratching my head trying to figure out what to do next. I admire that these difficult puzzles exist, but I’m happy they are positioned as bonus content.
Boxboy is an easy-to-overlook entry in the 3DS digital library. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t have a particularly remarkable look about it, but its well-designed puzzles continue to surprise, making it absolutely worth playing.
A surprising collection of well-designed puzzles and mechanics make Boxboy worth a look.