Developer - HAL Laboratory
Publisher - Nintendo
Platform - 3DS
Price - £4.49/€4.99/$4.99
Genre - Puzzle Platformer
BoxBoxBoy! (typo: BoxBoxBoy1) reminds me of the great Sarah Millican. Not because the Geordie comedian can squat and produce a series of connected boxes to help her solve problems, but because of a moment she had on Mock The Week some years ago. She said her sister had bought her a big block of Dairy Milk chocolate for Christmas and was expecting her to eat one piece a day, whereas Sarah practically attacked it with a kitchen knife. The best way to play BoxBoxBoy! (no typo this time) is a little at a time; otherwise it'll be gone too soon.
The sequel to last year's simple but brilliant BoxBoy!, the big twist on its 'produce blocks to solve problems, like getting past spikes or hitting switches to open doors' formula is to enable the player character, Qbby, to produce two sets of boxes at once. Know now that this is not a revolution, but it is an evolution that brings more to the table and creates a new set of possibilities for fans of the original to get their heads around.
The original game made great use of its elements, though it did take a while to get going. Once it had - which was the middle of World 8, for me - it just kept throwing new ideas at the screen with wild abandon. BoxBoxBoy!, on the other hand, feels more restrained. Many of BoxBoy!'s level ideas return, including connecting positive and negative terminals, teleporting fog and guiding supercute Spiky Spooky to his doom in order to open doors. On the face of it, there isn't much that's new.
However, dat ability to produce two sets of boxes. This has been cruelly dismissed in some reviews I've seen but is enough of a twist on the formula to have BoxBoy! (BoxBOt!) experts scratching their heads from time to time. You quickly add new skills to your arsenal, such as wearing one set of boxes as a hat and using the second set like a jack to raise the former into position. Evolution, not revolution.
Completing levels without using more than a set amount of boxes keeps collectible crowns in play, as in the image above. These are worth extra points that can then be spent in the in-game shop, another element making a return from BoxBoy! (BoxBo!). In addition to the costumes (if you have a BoxBoy! save file, any costumes you've earned there are carried over) and music, you can also buy comics, four-panel skits involving Qbby and his friends (Qucy and Qudy - yes, really). They're mildly amusing, if a bit throwaway, but all the incentives add together to keep players from simply throwing boxes at problems.
The aesthetics are as lean as before - clean, sharp lines but with no real hint of the strength of the hardware running the game: we're confident you could get a good version of BoxBoxBoy! running on a NES. This is not a criticism, as such; it's a choice HAL made and it is a bold one. The music is similarly minimal, as are the sound effects - it feels like nothing must get in the way of the purity of the puzzles. That's an admirable goal: 'all gameplay, all the time' is the motto, and it serves the game well.
Ultimately it's hard to get away from the hoary old "Fans of the original will love this but it won't convert anyone else" conclusion. To be totally frank, some fans of the original may end up disappointed that so much has been lifted straight from BoxBoy! (BoxBoyt!). The ability to make two sets of blocks aside, there is very little else that makes BoxBoxBoy! (Boxboy! - dreadful one, that) truly distinct from its older sibling. This is compounded by the fact that there are fewer levels overall, leading to us worrying that the game may have been rushed to market.
That said, the magic is ever present and there are far poorer games going for far more on the eShop. BoxBoxBoy! is by no means a disappointment and can hold its blocky head up high in the hustle and bustle of the puzzle platformer genre... just not quite as high as BoxBoy! can.
Final Verdict: The simple, fat-free gameplay of BoxBoy! (boxBoy!) returns for this sequel, with one neat trick that brilliantly opens the gameplay up to fresh possibilities. Though it may be more immediate than its predecessor, BoxBoxBoy! is otherwise a bit too much of a clone to really shine in its own right. In short, the original is still BoxKing! and we'll see you next year for BoxBoxBoxBoy!