Developer - HAL Laboratories
Publisher - Nintendo
Platform - 3DS
Price - £4.49
Genre - Puzzle Platformer
HAL Laboratories heroes are hardly what you'd call design masterpieces, are they? Kirby, the pink sphere with shoes, arms, mouth and eyes, is not particularly special. BoxBoy! hero Qbby is a square with eyes and stick legs. It's not a problem, though, seeing as they both star in brilliant games. So far the BoxBoy! trilogy has been pretty good, with both BoxBoy! and BoxBoxBoy! scratching that puzzle platformer itch well. Now we're literally saying goodbye to the concept, less than two years after it began.
And what is that concept? You are Qbby, who has two abilities: he can jump and, more importantly, he can create boxes. These are other squares, the same size as himself, that he can make varied uses of in the game's levels. Do you need to protect yourself from falling spikes? Make a box to act as a helmet, and off you go. Is Qbby's tiny jump not enough to clear the wall in front of you? Manufacture a staircase of boxes that you can leap up to continue! Or maybe there's a hole in the floor that you can't jump over? Then you should cover it in boxes, obvs, and go on your merry way. And you will be merry.
There are many more uses for boxes, so what might seem quite limited to begin with is actually a reasonably sizeable skill set. As the third game in two years, though (must stop mentioning that...), the appeal is starting to wane. You can't do anything new in your normal state, which feels like a misstep. The gimmick of the second game, BoxBoxBoy!, meant you could project two sets of boxes at once. That was good fun but the devs must have felt it was a dead-end, as Qbby is back to his one-set-of-boxes self again. BBBB!'s gimmick is better than that, mostly because it is plural.
Not sure that made sense, but let's carry on regardless. Levels are grouped into worlds that are grouped into planets. The penultimate world on a planet sees you escorting a helpless friend around called a 'Qbaby' (hey, it wasn't my idea!). Keep him/her safe through all those levels and the final world is unlocked. The final world features a new kind of box that changes the gameplay radically, including rocket boxes that shoot upwards for a short period, or bomb boxes, whose explosions take some of the scenery with them. It's a massive change for the series, and very welcome indeed.
These new boxes only last for one world before you're returned to Normal Box Qbby on the next planet, which is a crying shame. Some Nintendo games receive that singular piece of praise that they have ideas dreamt up for one level and never seen again that some other devs would base a game around. That works perfectly for Super Mario Galaxy, say, because there's always a new idea around the corner. In Bye-Bye BoxBoy!, there isn't. As a planet always has the same structure - world, world, escort mission world, awesome new box world - what might seem more innovative on paper actually is more formulaic than before.
Overall it's an opportunity lost. You almost start to resent having to play as Normal Box Qbby again, which should never have been allowed to happen. The best levels involve the New Boxes because they change the way you think through problems so much. As it happens, the last New Box World before the end features some spectacular levels - 18-4 and 18-6 are particular highlights, the best levels I'll play all year until Super Mario Odyssey, I reckon - but it's not enough to carry things. That said, leading up to a New Box World does create a great sense of anticipation for the player, which I'm calling A Good Thing.
The only thing left to talk about is whether it's a fitting end for the trilogy. Bye-Bye BoxBoy! will take you to places that the previous two games did not, with a level of accomplishment that the first game certainly didn't have. The confidence of a development team that is sure of itself and its character shines through and the story is certainly brought to a definitive close. It's a mild disappointment that the majority of the intriguing and challenging levels are left for the post-game, but no more than that. In short - yeah, it's a good note to end a series on.
Final Verdict: Despite its graphical shortcomings and thin tunes, the gameplay remains as much the star of the third and seemingly final entry in the BoxBoy! trilogy as ever. I've just got this feeling that HAL won't be able to leave it at that, though, so we'll see you next year for the inevitable Crikey, BoxBoy!, I Thought You'd Left! What Are You Doing Behind These Bins?.