Week 5- BoxBoy’s 3DS Trilogy
BoxBoy, BoxBoxBoy, and Bye-Bye BoxBoy
I have discussed genres of video games for the past few weeks, but this week I want to try something different. Today I have three games in the same series, and I will discuss how each game builds upon the last. BoxBoy is a puzzle platformer with four titles to its name. The most recent game is available on the switch, but the first three games are currently exclusive to the 3DS. The 3DS’s online store has recently gone down after a dozen years, so there’s no better time to look at the 3DS Boxboy trilogy.
Why I Bought These Games: I’m a big fan of platforming games and a moderate fan of puzzle games. The BoxBoy games are made by HAL Laboratory, the creators of the immensely popular Kirby games. If the game was successful enough to get four games, then I figured HAL was doing something right.
What Took Me So Long: I was probably going to get to these games sooner than later, so I honestly think that the former four weeks’ worth of games were the only ones in the way.
HAL Laboratory, the company behind many games that look simple but are surprisingly complex, has brought us its take on a puzzle platformer. The goal of Boxboy is to get to the end of each level, but small puzzles must be solved to make progress. The main character of the BoxBoy series is Qbby (pronounced Cube-y). If Kirby is already a simple design, being a circle with limbs and a face, then Qbby is somehow even more simple, being a square with legs and eyes. Qbby can move, jump, and create boxes. Every level gives players a limit on the number of boxes they can make at a time. Once you make a set of boxes, you can throw them, push them, use them as platforms, or make them disappear if they’re in the way.
The boxes Qbby creates are the key to solving the puzzles found in each level. Boxes can act as a bridge across dangerous spikes, a hook to pull yourself up to higher platforms, or a helmet to shield from lasers. You can even snake through tight corridors by creating a chain of boxes and then pulling yourself to the last boxes in the chain. You have an unlimited number of tries for a given level, but be careful about how many boxes you make. Every level has crowns that can be collected to earn medals to spend on bonuses like costumes and music tracks. The challenge of Boxboy comes from the box limit for every level. You won’t get bonus medals if you exceed the box limit before collecting crowns. If you manage to beat levels while staying under the box limit, you’ll have plenty of bonus content to look forward to.
If you’re looking for a greater challenge, you can use medals to unlock challenge levels. These levels either involve beating a level as fast as possible or amassing a high score before time runs out. Some levels in the main game left me stumped, but I was eventually able to beat them while collecting all of the crowns. The challenge levels were even tougher, even with no box limit to worry about. These levels were tough for a game that otherwise lets you take your time with puzzles, but they were incredibly satisfying to overcome. BoxBoy is overall a fun game with a charming monochromatic art style. Its only nuance comes in level variety and challenge levels, but the sequels are there to fix that issue.
BoxBoxBoy debuted a year after the first game and immediately brought with it a new twist. This time, Qbby can create two separate sets of boxes. The puzzles are more involved off the bat, so it’s a nice challenge after the original BoxBoy. You’ll need to press multiple buttons at once, create intricate platforms, and block lasers from multiple directions. While the first game steadily ramps up in difficulty, BoxBoxBoy stays consistently difficult throughout.
In the age of downloadable content, there have been talks of what should constitute a sequel. Does BoxBoxBoy do enough to shake up the formula introduced in the first game while staying true to what made it work? I think this game does that for sure. Two sets of boxes is a simple change that doesn’t alter the core gameplay, but it does make for more interesting puzzles. BoxBoxBoy gets so much mileage out of this mechanic that it doesn’t even introduce skills like hooks and snakes from the first game until much later. The BoxBoy games have their own unique features and only cost around $5 each on the 3DS, so I can see why they are separate games. If BoxBoxBoy was downloadable content for the first game, it would probably cost as much as it does as its own game, so it doesn’t matter too much.
The third and final game in the BoxBoy 3DS trilogy aims to end this chapter of the series on a dramatic note. This time, the fate of multiple planets is in Qbby’s… hands? Well, Qbby doesn’t exactly have hands, or arms for that matter, but they do have some new box abilities at their disposal. In the place of multiple sets of boxes, Qbby must save Qbabies to progress. These little guys, once escorted to safety, will allow Qbby to augment boxes in new and exciting ways. My favorite new box type was the box rocket, which rises upward after you throw it or jump while attached to it.
I found that this game had more in common with the first BoxBoy game than the second one. I expected it to have another big shake-up to the gameplay, but you can still solve all of the puzzles with one set of boxes at a time. The new box abilities add variance but are not a huge shift the way multiple box sets are. There are also more similarities between the first and third games in terms of the design of the world map and how new levels are accessed. In BoxBoxBoy, doors to new levels are simply grayed out until you beat the previous levels. This system is more cinematic in BoxBoy and Bye-Bye BoxBoy, where you create a huge box to make a bridge leading to the next door. Since BoxBoxBoy has a more complex game mechanic and noticeable differences in presentation to the other 3DS titles, it makes me wonder if it would have worked better as the third in the trilogy. No matter what order the games come in, I enjoyed Bye-Bye BoxBoy just as much as the other titles.
Summary: These games felt as if they were intended to be played one after another. There was a feeling of accomplishment I got from beating levels that made me want to keep playing. Levels never overstayed their welcome, and while they started off easy enough, there were always some levels that put my spatial awareness and puzzle solving skills to the test. I’m not a big fan of puzzle games where only one solution works, so I’m happy to say that many levels in the BoxBoy series can be cleared through multiple strategies. There’s also the content benefit that comes from playing all of these games. Later games can detect save data from previous games to unlock new costumes at the shop. It all adds up to a sizable amount of varied gameplay and undeniable charm that only costs around half of the average 3DS game. Unfortunately, these games cannot be digitally purchased any longer due to the closure of the 3DS’s online shop, which is how I bought them. The one saving grace (besides buying a costly Japanese physical copy of the third game) is that the newest entry of the series, BoxBoy + BoxGirl, is available on the Switch.
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