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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: Box Boy!

What are you doing?! There's a crown right there!
When Box Boy was initially announced, I was quite surprised to see that even Hal Laboratory was developing for the eShop- it seems like all of Nintendo's resources are being drawn upon to make the eShop as well-rounded as possible.

Box Boy is a puzzle platformer, a particularly inventive genre that gets its kicks by exploiting and subverting a gameplay mechanic to its extremes. Does this little game offer a whole lot of content? Why, yes. Yes it does.

PROS:

-Extremely inventive puzzle mechanics

-Bite-sized nature of worlds is satisfying and fast-paced

CONS:

-What is this story in my puzzle platformer?

-Bizarre shop mechanic.

-It just goes on and on and on and on...

THOUGHTS:

If it seems like this game has been out for a while, that's because it has been. Box Boy is a particular example of when eShop titles are jam-packed with content, but the main problem is the monotony of the overall product. While its puzzle mechanics are really quite unique and extremely satisfying, the game offers just a bit too much for what it is trying to be, and that can prove to be exhausting.

Box Boy lives on a box-shaped planet with two other boxy denizens. To explain the rest of the story might make it lose its impact on those who are interested, but to that I say, "why?" Box Boy's story is unnecessary, a bizarre mechanic to move the progression of the world unlocks along. At first, you begin by unlocking only a few levels at a time, but towards the end of the game, there are larger chunks that you are able to tackle in any order. This makes sense, as many of the latter ares do utilize a few more mechanics found in earlier worlds, but numbering these worlds would give just as satisfying an experience.

Odd structure and equally strange story aside, the gameplay is very, very good. Using Box Boy's power to create copies of himself as inanimate boxes in three directions, you must create shapes off of yourself as well as platforms and a few other neat tricks. The "puzzle" in Box Boy is never too challenging- in the earlier levels, players might become frustrated with a few of the time-based collectables scattered throughout levels that will disappear when you've wasted too long on a solution, and the checkpoint system isn't as forgiving as you'd like it to be. But later levels almost all feature box limits on their collectables, which isn't really that much of a challenge. Each world has its own gimmick, the earlier levels featuring basic concepts you will combine to overcome later challenges. This makes the game very exciting, as you are always able to burn through a world (which is about six or seven levels) and then discover an entirely new mechanic.

But the problem is that, save for the last world, these mechanics are barely mixed. The primary movement options like snaking, hooking, and general block building are always appearing but the more interesting portals, conveyor belts, and spiky nemeses are confined to their own worlds. Those are really only six examples of the twenty-two very varied worlds that are present in Box Boy, and that's not even all the content on display. There are also score and time attack levels that must be bought with the in-game currency, a peculiar mechanic seeing as the player is rewarded with money upon completing a world, but must also complete worlds to find treasure chests to stock the store with more items.

While I have some qualms with how Box Boy is structured, it is a very solid game with an enjoyable mechanic that has plenty of great options. Though it took a very long time for me to complete, I was never really frustrated or confused with the game- the answers to its puzzles become more and more obvious as you continue to play. It's just the visual and mechanical monotony of the game that really get me. The black-and-white graphics are striking, but don't thrill very much, and the prospect of completing a world only to realize that the mechanic within will never be used again is a bit disappointing. I feel we will never see a sequel to Box Boy that maybe improves on its tiny flaws, as each of its world concepts are fully realized by the time you complete them- sometimes even before them, as I noted a few instances where the game really didn't need to feature another level. In any case, it's a huge bang for your buck, and if you're looking for a slow-burning puzzle title, look no further.

Final Verdict: With a load of content and enjoyable mechanics, Box Boy is a unique and comprehensive experience on the 3DS eShop, and one might feel they've cheated Nintendo out of a quality game for its price. However, it's best enjoyed in short bursts- perfect for portables, but a draining long-term experience.

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