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April 02, 2015

It’s hip to be a square in Nintendo’s ‘Boxboy!’

Posted in: Games

THE PLAYER

Nintendo's "Boxboy" is a minimalist puzzle adventure. (HAL Laboratories)

Nintendo’s “Boxboy!” is a minimalist puzzle adventure. (HAL Laboratory)

Maybe it’s as simple as putting eyelashes on a box. Or maybe it’s the way the box scrunches up and holds its eyes shut when it’s in a tight spot. Or maybe it’s the box’s tiny little stick figure legs.

But Boxboy – his real name is actually Qbby  – has charisma.

There are puzzles, too, yes, but it’s the small details that propel a player through “Boxboy!,” Nintendo’s charmer of a little game for its handheld 3DS device. Boxboy has a friend, a box pal with a bow, and Boxboy has superpowers, namely the ability to create more boxes, and it’s somewhat of a surprise that “Boxboy!” works at all.

After all, Boxboy is just a box. On the surface, it’s the digital equivalent of giving a kitten a piece of cardboard. The feel is hand-me-down homemade. “Boxboy!” could have existed generations ago, and it feels like a bit of a throwback to Nintendo’s old Game Boy – or maybe even of something born on a calculator.

BOXBOY4

Little Boxboy must avoid lasers. (HAL Laboratory)

Yet “Boxboy!” is the story of a little box who thinks he can, and though its challenges aren’t extremely taxing, he’s a cube worth cheering. Oh, and Boxboy looks adorable when he sports oversized glasses and a backward baseball cap as part of his “rapper” costume (part of his aforementioned charisma).

The game is minimal to the core. It’s almost entirely in black and white, with just hints of red here and there. When Boxboy encounters lasers, for instance, they zip and zap like crudely drawn pencil scratches. When Boxboy comes across giant caverns, a fall will lead to a floor of pointy triangles. When Boxboy is faced with a problem, it’s solved with a box – and occasionally a jump.

Developed by HAL Laboratory, a studio most well-known for its work on “Super Smash Bros.” and “Kirby” games, “Boxboy!” is a part run –  er, walk – and jump game, and part fit-the-square-in-the-peg puzzle game. Boxboy has the ability to generate boxes out of his head and then can toss them over gaps. Or they can be used to trigger buttons. Or they can be used as a shield.

Some puzzles require Boxboy to snake around corridors. (HAL Laboratories)

Some puzzles require Boxboy to snake around corridors. (HAL Laboratory)

The main challenge comes from limitations placed on the player. On some levels, Boxboy can only generate three boxes; on others, five. Boxes allow Boxboy to bridge gaps or reach tall heights, but they also gift Boxboy the ability to act like something of a snake. Example: Create a zig-zag line with five or six boxes, and Boxboy can zip to the other side.

Puzzles can get tough when lasers are pointing at Boxboy from all directions. Also, if a player wants to collect all the shaded-in crowns in the level – for, you know, bonus points – figuring out the best box-path can become a little tricky, as there will sometimes be a need to spawn boxes to the right of Boxboy, down below Boxboy and then up above Boxboy.

With 173 different stages that Boxboy must navigate, the game isn’t exactly short. But the puzzles are bite-sized friendly. It’s a good during-the-commercials game. And since Boxboy is always bobbing to the tick-tocking electronic score, there’s always a forward momentum to the game. That’s not bad for a total square.

– Todd Martens | @Toddmartens | @LATherocomplex

“Boxboy!”

Developer: HAL Laboratories

Publisher: Nintendo

Release date: April 2

Price: $5.99

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