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Review: BOXBOXBOY!BOXBOXBOY BOXBOY HAL Laboratory
Developer: HAL Laboratory Inc.
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
ESRB: E for Everyone
As I watched the credits of BOXBOY! roll, my brain ping-ponged lots of ideas back and forth. The culmination of those ideas are in my review of the game. But, to summarize: I felt BOXBOY! was a little too restrained by its need to make sure newcomers understood the conventions of its puzzles. Entire worlds from the game felt like introductory levels. The training wheels didn’t really come off until its Bonus or Challenge Worlds, in particular.
Going into BOXBOXBOY!, its sequel -- I felt as though it could benefit by accommodating returning players, by removing tutorial segments, and offering a greater challenge than what the first game provided before the credits rolled. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a sequel that doesn’t radically change or improve upon formulas established in the game that came before. “More BOXBOY!” -- even if it’s not different BOXBOY! -- would likely be perfectly satisfying to a large number of people.
Thus, before I even get into my experience with the game -- I think it’s important to address what kind of sequel it is. A good contemporary example that comes to mind for me, personally, would be Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. That game’s basically a heavy metal version of the one that came before it. Someone playing it after the original Mudds won’t have to worry about new mechanics, but they may pick up a few new tricks.
Less contemporary, but still relevant: Reflect upon the differences between Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the game that came before that. The level design is mostly unchanged between the two games, and yet... the spin-dash is introduced, so returning players can rethink conventional Sonic gameplay with added momentum. BOXBOXBOY! is definitely the “Sonic 2” kind of sequel. As the name implies -- Qbby can create two sets of boxes to solve puzzles instead of just one. But ultimately... while “it’s just more BOXBOY” is a depressingly dry line to include in a review for the sequel... that’s a fairly accurate assessment, in this case. There are even instances where the player creates two sets of boxes to solve puzzles in the bonus worlds of BOXBOY!.
Do realize: beyond a single exception I’ll highlight a little later on, there is nothing else “brand new” introduced in BOXBOXBOY! before the credits roll. The introductory world is a tutorial one, that explains the same exact things you did in the first game. Each world that follows reintroduces old mechanics and enemies from BOXBOY!, but this time you need to use more than one set of boxes to reach your goal.
The crowns from the first game return. Costume and music collecting in exchange for currency earned by completing levels also returns. One nice touch I’ll mention that few sequels employ: If you own and have completed the original BOXBOY!, you can use all of your unlocked costumes, including the Bunny Costume that extends Qbby’s jump beyond his natural capabilities -- right from the start of BOXBOXBOY!.
But, when describing the overall philosophy and mechanics presented to the player, it’s basically just a series of examples I can point out that were roughly the same in the first game. Levels are a bit more challenging this time, but there was nothing too vexing or new to figure out. Lots of the approaches to puzzle-solving involve timing, too. You'll run into plenty of instances where the boxes you place will activate a switch that opens a door, and you'll have to skitter through it before it closes behind you. All it amounts to are subtle shifts in tone.
There’s nothing wrong with the decisions HAL Laboratory made here. But there’s nothing really new about them either.
Creating more than one set of boxes to solve puzzles does create instances where the player will have to think a bit harder to reach the goal, though. And BOXBOXBOY! has comics to collect that give its characters a little more personality than BOXBOY! had the opportunity to.
The story’s a little odd, though. I’m not really sure if I could tell you what went on, from start to finish, but hey, it was still interesting enough. The few new musical tracks were just as catchy as the older ones, but there’s nothing revolutionary about its arrangements, either. Whether I’m addressing aspects of its presentation or its nuts and bolts on the inside -- ”more of the same” is universally applicable.
...hey, this game’s Challenge World forces you to complete levels in certain costumes! If you avoided the complexities of some of BOXBOY!’s Bonus World puzzles by putting on the Bunny Costume and extending your natural jump -- this game has an entire set of levels where you play through them in the Bunny Costume. So you’ve got to solve puzzles with a naturally higher jump. In terms of innovation, it’s all found either in the Challenge World, where forced costume changes make you to rethink its conventions a little bit -- or after the credits roll, in the Bonus Worlds. ...I know, even that is a paradigm consistent with the first one.
“It’s more of the same thing, with a few subtle or more challenging differences” is truly the best way to summarize BOXBOXBOY!. But, while my opinion of what the game “should have been” ultimately clashes with what I was presented with here -- the level design is still competent and fun, and (especially considering you can bring over the costumes from the first game, and other fodder) I still think it’s worth the small asking price. BOXBOXBOY! is the perfect reminder that “more of the same” isn’t really a bad thing.
+ If BOXBOXBOY! is the first game you've played of the two, you won't really feel lost going in. Everything is still paced leisurely. Definitely accessible.
+ Some of the new puzzles offer satisfying design choices that require more skill than some present in the first game.
+ Any sequel that lets you transfer content over from the first game already has a leg up over some contemporaries.
- With the exception of the Challenge World, no concept, enemy or type of puzzle is new to BOXBOXBOY!. Even the idea of using more than one set of boxes was seen in the first game.
- Some may feel it's disappointingly lean in comparison to the first. BOXBOY! has 22 Worlds -- BOXBOXBOY! has 17, including the Challenge World.
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
BOXBOXBOY! is a sequel that chooses not to innovate or reinvent the wheel that started turning in the first game. Sometimes more of something good isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a copy of the game purchased by the author
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