By Isaac Espinosa
As a strange blackness overtakes a box-filled world, puzzle solving becomes the only way to save it. BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is a puzzle game developed by HAL Labs and I played it on the Nintendo Switch system. This new addition to the “BOXBOY!” series features a brand new two-player co-op, along with over 270 different worlds to challenge the minds of determined players. So without further ado, let us set off on this strange and boxed-up journey!
Like the other entries in this franchise, BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! gives the player many different kinds of puzzles. It’s deceivingly simple. You create boxes to advance through the level. Each level has a set amount of boxes that can be created at once, and the levels are designed to reflect this limit. For example, some levels may allow you to only construct three boxes, which can only be used to build a small set of stairs at best. However, if a level has a limit of five or more boxes, the player can create lengthy platforms or other ways to maneuver through that level, using the multiple boxes. The boxes you make can even protect you from hazards, such as lasers or spikes.
And the latest single and multiplayer campaigns let players gather new abilities that allow for different kinds of puzzle solving, like building a hook-like structure to reach higher levels, using your boxes to bounce off spikes while you hang from the side, and even shooting boxes out of your own square body. Each new power is put straight to the test as soon as it’s introduced, which allows the player to properly understand its uses and the possibilities available with each new power. Players who beat the game will even able to play as the box person, Qudy, who, with his long body, can create tall or wide boxes depending on whether he is horizontal or vertical.
Each world of BoxBoy + BoxGirl, which typically consists of levels grouped together, has a different theme tied to the puzzles locked within them. Most of these worlds have certain obstacles and gimmicks that make them stand out. For example, one world, named “Platform Ride,” uses special platform blocks that move in a pattern and can sometimes be activated with a switch. Another, named “Fun With Platform Blocks,” has special portals that teleport you and the blocks you’ve created across the level. This allows for the levels within the world to be based solely on the mechanic they introduce. As the game progresses, the levels the player will face will enforce the idea that the player must make use of every one of the abilities you use. This allows for unique puzzles that, while not difficult, can be immensely satisfying once the best way to solve it has been found.
When a level is cleared, the player receives two different types of currency, one which can be spent on small miscellaneous things like art, music, comic panels and assist items. These assist items aren’t really that useful in practice since they aren’t actually required to complete any of the puzzles in the game. The only reason to really buy them would be if you didn’t care for the art or music that you can buy with this currency. The other currency can be used for different accessories to customize your character, or for in-level hints, you can buy if you get stuck on a certain part of the level. You can earn more of this currency by completing a level in a certain way. More specifically, you have three recommended numbers of boxes for each level. Use the lowest target amount, or lower if possible, and you net yourself three medals. There are also crowns to be collected, each of which will earn you another medal, although most levels only have one to collect. Gathering crowns isn’t essential for progressing through the game, but it is a neat bonus. I found it even more satisfying to reach the lowest target amount of boxes.
In conclusion, BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! is an extremely compelling puzzle game that allows for hours of fun while creating a world that does not need bombastic music, or stellar graphics in order to hook the player into its addictive puzzle solving. The puzzles are simple enough that new players of the series can easily become used to the mechanics and travel further into this box-filled world.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.