Nintendo is often criticized for relying too heavily on the same few franchises, but in recent years the company has put out a range of quirky digital games that demonstrate the same spirit of creation as the publisher’s most beloved titles. BOXBOY! can certainly be counted among that number.
For many, 2D platformers are still the definitive Nintendo genre. Whether its the heydey of the Super Mario Bros. series or less prominent franchises like Kirby or Donkey Kong Country, few would argue that the company’s franchises and developers are anything but a great fit for this style of gameplay.
However, BOXBOY! isn’t just a straight 2D platformer. This game shares as much DNA with the puzzle genre as it does with jump-and-run titles. The actual platforming is somewhat perfunctory — using the protagonist’s box-based powers is the real main event.
Boxboy, himself a box, can also produce boxes to help him negotiate his surroundings. He can produce a box and throw it to create a new platform, or he can conjure up a string of several boxes and use them as a sort of rudimentary grappling hook, among a range of other novel uses of his talents.
Mechanically, it’s very satisfying indeed. Just as in the best platformers or puzzle games, players put in complete control of the character’s actions. Boxboy’s abilities soon become second nature, which makes it very easy to focus on whatever challenge is being placed in front of the player.
That process is aided by the game’s crisp, clean presentation. Some may find it too minimalist for its own good, but for players who were raised on games released for the original Game Boy system, it might just conjure up a powerful sense of nostalgia.
Even if gamers aren’t familiar with that era, though, it’s very difficult not to be charmed by the protagonist himself. For such a simple design, Boxboy is able to emote perfectly well — it’s a treat to unlock a new outfit and see how it adds new animations, or meet another one of Boxboy’s friends after completing a set of levels.
BOXBOY! calls to mind overlooked handheld titles like HarmoKnight and Dillon’s Rolling Western. Blame it on Nintendo’s slow progress towards a reliable account system, but much of the exclusive digital games for the 3DS have not found the audience that they deserve.
All the polish and ingenuity players expect from a Nintendo release is front and center in BOXBOY! — it just comes in a slightly smaller package than most titles. That said, there’s plenty of potential replayability thanks to bonus levels and challenges to complete by using less than a certain amount of boxes.
This is the sort of game that seems destined to go down as a cult classic, but should really be enjoyed by anyone with a 3DS system. It’s a true triumph of gameplay over spectacle, and a hugely engaging experience from start to finish.
BOXBOY! is available now for Nintendo 3DS.