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Developer: HAL Laboratory Inc. Publisher: Nintendo 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. â€œMore BOXBOY!â€ -- 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 â€œSonic 2â€ kind of sequel. As the name implies -- Qbby can create two sets of boxes to solve puzzles instead of just one. But ultimately... while â€œit“s just more BOXBOYâ€ 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 â€œbrand newâ€ 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 -- â€more of the sameâ€ is universally applicable. Except... ...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. â€œIt“s more of the same thing, with a few subtle or more challenging differencesâ€ is truly the best way to summarize BOXBOXBOY!. But, while my opinion of what the game â€œshould have beenâ€ 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 â€œmore of the sameâ€ isn“t really a bad thing. Pros + 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. Cons - 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) Good 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
2015 certainly surprised me. For starters, I was almost certain that Batman: Arkham Knight would be on this list, but I guess things don“t always work out the way you think. That“s not to say there were only bad surprises this year; in fact, I“d like to think that many of the games on my list were pleasant surprises. Games I didn“t expect to love or respect as much as I do. Heck, there are even a couple I probably would never have played if friends hadn“t motivated (read: forced) me to try them. Oh, and spoiler alert -- Undertale ain“t here so don“t go looking for it! A side note: Where“s Fallout 4? Don“t get me wrong, I love the game. It“s a great game. But it“s not really that much different from Fallout 3 or New Vegas. Sure, plenty of things work much better in Fallout 4, but there“s very little that“s actually new. For a game that had so much time pass between it and it“s previous franchise installment, I expected more. I dunno, call me crazy. So Fallout 4 gets my honorable mention, but alas, nothing more this year. 10. BOXBOY! Official GP Review A quirky, fun little title from Kirby“s developers, Hal Labs, BoxBoy has become a very unlikely favorite of mine this year. Initially, the visual presentation really turned me off, but due to the (incessant) insistence of Jon I gave it a whirl. Puzzle platforming with a simple premise, but very quickly becoming a test of box management, for the lack of a better word. The further you go, the more creative you have to get if you want to complete each level, even more so to collect all those crowns! Thanks, Jon. 9. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D While Majora“s Mask has always been one of my favorite Zelda titles, Grezzo“s 3DS port takes it a step further, allowing players all the benefits of the original, with some of the enhancements that made Ocarina of Time 3D better, and new ones that make the game more accessible for newcomers (those wussies!). The town of Termina and the people who live in it are really the stars of this off-kilter Zelda title, which each side quest bringing you closer to the people in Link“s world than ever before. 8. Persona 4: Dancing All Night Official GP Review A surprisingly good follow up to Persona 4 Golden... set in a rhythm game? Well, as it turns out that“s exactly what this is. Solid as a rhythm game in general, Dancing All Night impressed me further with it“s highly-uncharacteristic-for-the-genre fully scripted plot that acts as a commentary on idol/pop star culture. The songs are a mix of great ditties from Persona 4 and remixes that are just as amazing in their own right. Visually, the game is near-seizure inducing, with full 3D models inside of a 3D environment and the ability to even watch a â€œchoreography modeâ€ that will show you just the character without all the fancy camera angles so you too can drop it like it“s hot (or whatever it is the kids are dancing to these days). 7. Yoshi's Woolly World Official GP Review I got this a bit late, but the wife and I were looking for something to play together. The cute, crafty world of Kirby“s Epic Yarn had been one of our favorite co-op experiences on the Wii, so naturally this Good-Feel game and spiritual successor was a no brainer. We were not disappointed. This game has a tad more challenge in the level design, plenty of amiibo support, collectathon goodness, great co-op, and best of all, an extreme dedication to the crocheted theme. The way the ground crinkles like fabric, unweaving parts of the stage to find hidden paths, even the slight fraying of the yarn the yoshis and other stuff in the game are made out of screams massive attention to detail that does not go unnoticed. I promise you, this much cuteness is nearly lethal. 6. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate It“s strange to say this now, but I wasn't always a fan of Monster Hunter. I used to complain about the tank controls, complicated control scheme, and hard-for-the-sake-of-hard boss fights that make up the vast majority of the game. And even though I still do, playing with friends has allowed me to see the good things that make those criticisms far less severe. There's an intricacy to the controls that allows for some seriously complex player tactics. The weapon variety is impressive. Online play is surprisingly stable. And MH4U in particular has a variety of Nintendo and other publisher crossover DLC, all of which that has been entirely free and updated regularly. Thanks Char! 5. Xenoblade Chronicles X Not without its problems, sure, but Monolith Soft has done something right when the world of Mira is more interesting than most other open world games 2015 has offered us. The game“s passive online elements, along with the 4-person online quests definitely offer what other open world games have notâ€¦ the feeling of never being alone. Xenoblade Chronicles X asks a lot of people who would explore it, but it rewards in kind with a rich battle system and seemingly endless treasures to seek out. Oh, and who else hasn“t wanted to pilot a huge transforming mech and beat the snot out of a monster that is 10-stories tall? Surely no one. 4. SteamWorld Heist Official GP Review Image & Form made this game called SteamWorld Dig a while ago, which was cool. It was like a Steampunk western version of Dig Dug -- you know, the thing you never knew you needed. So when they turned their attention to making a new game in the same world, but this time with turn-based strategy RPG gameplay -- well, you could say I was instantly on board. The game revolves around the very Firefly-esque crew of Captain Piper Faraday and their no-good (but somehow still good) pirating of robo-jerks at the edge of space. I mean really, what more do you need in a game? 3. Stretchmo I“ve been a fan of this series since the original Pushmo game dropped early in the 3DS“s lifespan. The calming atmosphere and clever puzzle mechanics have earned it a spot in the upper echelon of modern puzzle games in my opinion, but Stretchmo in particular really stands out among them. Of course, the 3D puzzles are fun, but the multitude of added puzzle elements and even the structure of this game“s free-to-start model are all incredibly well-thought out. I guess you could say that this game stretches your dollar pretty far... I“ll see myself out. 2. Splatoon Are you a kid, or are you a squid? This is a question that has kept me up late at night as my ink-stained clothes messed up my sheets in a way that would even make Billy Mays cringe. An primarily online competitive shooter game from Nintendo. A shooter. Let that sink in. Or don“t, 'cause the stain will set. Ok, I“ll stop, I promise. The game is worth it by itself, but the immense list of post-release (free!) DLC and regular Splatfest competitions have helped the game stay fresh. No, that was not a Squid Sisters pun. Well, okay... I guess now it is. 1. Destiny: The Taken King I started playing Destiny pretty late into its first year, but early enough to understand people“s criticisms of it. The Taken King aimed to change those and I believe it succeeded on almost every point. Crafting more interesting stories, with the use of their you-never-knew-just-how-interesting-they-actually-are characters, improved loot systems, fewer complicated item level increasing sidequests, better PVP, better quest and bounty systems, more content crammed into existing areas, and impressive new areas with loads to do. Sure, it“s just a shooter, but one that rewards players for their time spent fighting the darkness (alone or with friends!), impressive boss design, and plenty of cool new dance emotes too. Yup. It“s a dance off bro.
It seems this year is nearly over. Thinking about all the games I“ve played fills me with determination. To be completely honest, I“ve spent more time playing old games than new ones this year. One of my fondest memories of 2015 will no doubt be playing through every Kirby game I own to honor Mr. Iwata. I glitched out Link“s Awakening, got one of my childhood-favorite games from a friend, and more. Still, this list is about the present! Like last year, though, you won't find any PokÃ©mon games on this list. I have a million more Individual Values to give those games some love. Without further ado, here are the ten greatest games I've played that were released this year, and a few reasons why I adore them so. 10. Gunman Clive 2 I never thought panda physics would be a concept to worry about in an action game. But Gunman Clive 2 has a handful of obtuse surprises! I liken Bertil HÃ¶rberg“s games to the ones I mastered during childhood -- short and sweet; ones you“ll replay over and over again. Gunman Clive 2 in particular is about the length of any given Game Boy platformer, but remarkably varied and surreal. It improves upon precedents set in the first game, with enough crazy moments to properly set it apart. You really can“t beat the price, for what you“re getting. I feel like that“s the case with at least one other game on my list this year, too. Maybe sticking with games of the past has me attached to simplicity. Gunman Clive 2 is proof you don“t have to make your platformers overly complex adventures that last forever and overstay their welcome. 9. Tembo the Badass Elephant Official GP Review When Game Freak & SEGA announced they were partnering for a new project in March, I so wanted it to be another Pulseman. What we got instead was a zany action game whose graphical stylings and appeal are torn right from the pages of comic books. It“d been awhile since I last played the game after reviewing it towards the end of July, but picking it up again brought me back to the many challenges and laughs it provided: I showed my friends the game after reviewing it. The sarcastic one in the group kept making quips about my platforming skills as I struggled through some of the trickier objectives in the game“s penultimate world. She likened the experience to Donkey Kong Country -- a game whose difficulty could frustrate the heck out of the person playing, but be hilarious for backseat gamers to watch and comment on. That kind of fun is what“s going to make Tembo have some lasting appeal, to me. 8. Bloo Kid 2 Official GP Review I was playing both Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash and Tri Force Heroes at the time winterworks dropped the free update for this game, and I totally dropped both of those to go running back to the fun I remembered having in May. As it turns out, I“m among the first to 100% complete the game by gathering all 360 stars and collecting every last little thing in both the original and added levels. Bloo Kid 2 is absolutely stratified in the 16-bit era. It feels like playing it will transport you back to the past and offer a handful of challenges many of those developers weren“t creative enough to think of at the time. A majority of players will only remember the mine-cart levels and the game“s lack of originality. But me? I“m going to remember that this game outdoes plenty of big name Nintendo releases of this holiday season despite its flaws. It says something when you can get a perfectly competent experience for less than 10% of the asking price for many 3DS retail games out there. 7. BOXBOY Official GP Review I was browsing my 3DS library looking for something to play to pass the time recently, and I noticed something unique about BOXBOY. Most of the 3DS title cards on our systems, even the ones for the most elaborate games available, just feature some variation of a spinning logo. BOXBOY dismisses this in favor of displaying a cool little animation that demonstrates a basic game mechanic over just a few seconds. Everything about BOXBOY hearkens back to the very beginning of HAL Laboratory -- dismissing complex visuals in favor of a minimalist approach that focuses almost entirely upon gameplay, but that has enough charm to make its characters memorable and its players want more. I hope this great game becomes one of the next great franchises for Nintendo. 6. Ori and the Blind Forest Turns out the next great Studio Ghibli movie is a video game. Ori and the Blind Forest isn“t just a beautiful Metroid-like with masterfully-crafted mechanics: it“s got a story with as much emotion as games six times its size and sixty times its budget. Most music sets the mood for a level or environment in a game; this one“s helps better tell its story. The crescendo of a powerful melody will typically hit right at the same time Ori accomplishes a breathtaking platforming feat. The visuals and soundtrack combined help this forest to feel like one of the most vibrant worlds I played in this year; it“s truly alive. If this game hadn“t been released on Steam, it would have sold me an Xbox One. And to be honest, the â€œdefinitive editionâ€ kind of has me thinking along those lines again. 5. Tearaway Unfolded My love for the original Tearaway is well-documented at this point. I got hands-on with the new PlayStation 4 game at both E3 and PAX Prime this year. By the end of the Vita version, I had my lady snuggled beside me to see just a tiny piece of what the game had to offer on the small screen. As I made my way through Tearaway Unfolded, it was just as much her adventure as mine. She helped me create rainbow snowflakes (pictured above), a dinosaur flag, a Pikachu scarecrow, and more. Pictures of both of us -- not just her -- are on the books devoted to the study of the You, and the banner on Gibbet Hill. This game is worth experiencing on PlayStation 4 not just because of the brand new content tailored to it, but because seeing that world on a much bigger screen allows it to be shared with others easily. The world of Tearaway that you help create should be proudly shown! I“ll never forget the experiences I shared with other Messengers this year -- and that includes both my lady and showgoers at E3 & PAX Prime who played the demo. I've put one of their creations beside my own. 4. Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker Official GP Review At just over 115 hours total, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is my second most-played game of 2015, behind only PokÃ©mon Omega Ruby. And that shouldn“t surprise anyone, considering how in love I am with the original. As mentioned in my review, the revised script and voice cast helped breathe new life into the game I love, and the new story just proves these characters don“t overstay their welcome. I still play this one regularly to this day, trying to accomplish every last one of the post-game challenges. This game“s design, particularly in the Triangulum story, is one of the best examples of starting a character out virtually powerless, then allowing him to effectively (and purposefully) break the game by the final boss fight. I think this game should be played by everyone, not just because it“s welcoming for everyone (with DLC that helps alleviate the grind and challenge of the original game), but just so more than just me can see what wonderful things a bizarre combination of Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest, and PokÃ©mon is capable of. 3. Yoshi“s Woolly World Official GP Review I expected Good Feel“s efforts to be worth the wait, but I didn“t expect to have as much fun as I did playing Super Mario Galaxy -- or the original Yoshi“s Island, decades ago. The wonderful world of wool makes for one of the best Yoshi games to date. If you even mildly enjoyed Yoshi“s Story or the many games to come after the SNES original, you absolutely owe it to yourself to pick this one up. This is another experience my lady and I shared -- both of us have each completed our own file of the game. It was cool to see the things Mellow Mode allowed you to do as I watched her play, and I love that the game never punished her for keeping things at a difficulty level she could enjoy. We each have our own favorite Yoshis we unlocked, and she may have adopted one of my Yarn Yoshi amiibos as her own -- but our memories of Yoshi“s Woolly World are definitely shared between us. Long live Poochy! 2. Axiom Verge Official GP Review This game is better than Super Metroid. I know that“s going to make me a lot of enemies over time, but I“ll never stop saying it. I didn“t play any Metroid games back when they originally released -- I have no strong feelings of nostalgia for Samus or her world. I played both games back to back obsessively, drawing comparisons between their respective mechanics and boss fights. Tom Happ is the clear winner because he was so heavily inspired by Super Metroid. He knows exactly how to mess with your expectations and turn tried and true formulas on their collective giant robotic head, inside out, and then some. I gave it a perfect score. I stand by it. I“ve played plenty of Metroid-likes this year, but I“ll only call one revolutionary. I“ve handed out this game to several friends and told them to pay it forward and pass along good words, if they like it and agree with most of the praise I“ve given it. Considering I had no idea this game existed prior to it being handed to me, Axiom Verge is definitely the single biggest, most critically acclaimed surprise hit of my year... ...except for... 1. UNDERTALE Restraint is the ultimate character builder. If you“ve ever felt guilty striking down your enemies in an RPG, Undertale will teach you mercy. If you ignore its lessons and choose to kill or be killed, the game will show no mercy. You will be judged. You will be judged for your every action. I“ve tried for the longest time to convince my brain to find the words to give this game justice in my eyes -- to allow me to write some review or editorial that perfectly conveys my feelings. But it refused. You all have no idea how many times I“ve saved and reloaded documents filled with the right words and the wrong ones. This is the space where I“m going to make it count. I can“t describe what Undertale does without spoiling the plot and all the bad skeleton jokes. But I can tell you how meaningful its message was to me personally. When I was a kid and I sat down with a Final Fantasy game for the first time, I vividly remember asking my parents why I had to kill everything. They watched me get a Game Over when I tried to run and couldn“t escape. RPGs aren“t like Mario games where I can just avoid foes as I work towards the goal. There“s typically no avoiding combat when it comes to achieving victory. Running away will only hurt you. Showing restraint or finding a peaceful route didn“t just make winning more challenging; it made victory impossible. Undertale is the first and only RPG I“ve played where you can choose to finish the game without lifting your stick, frying pan, or dagger. You can choose to engage monsters by simply talking to them or picking actions tailored to their likes and dislikes. You can spare them by selecting Mercy and moving on. Some enemies are difficult to run from, but it can be done without dying. Every boss fight is passable without an actual fight. Everything has a peaceful option. And yet, even a Pacifist route has consequences. Undertale isn“t my game of the year because I think it's the ideal game for everyone, even if it is critically acclaimed. I'm not going to demand all of you play this game, and experience everything the world has to offer. I don“t think other developers should follow Toby Fox“s lead and create games like it. Honestly, I hope people experience the game blind -- just savor it like the perfect bowl of spaghetti. It“s my Game of the Year because it let me show mercy. It affected me like few games ever will... because I was comfortable being myself -- a Pacifist at heart.