So Long, Farewell
The time has come to bid farewell to our beloved BoxBoy. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know there was a BoxBoy to say bye-bye to. After all, his first two games arrived on the Nintendo 3DS eShop with little fanfare. Developed by HAL Laboratories of Kirby fame, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! marks the finale of this 2D puzzle platformer’s trilogy and is just as enjoyable as its predecessors.
The story picks up where the second left off, as we find our hero Qbby and his rectangular comrades traveling to new planets to fend off a mysterious black smoke. Although the story plays second-fiddle to the puzzle platforming, it tells a surprisingly thoughtful tale about what it takes to save the universe.
The square BoxBoy Qbby has the ability to sprout blocks from his body. Though you can only produce a limited number at a time, you can arrange them to produce connected shapes, like straight lines or Tetris-esque L-figures. Knowing how to utilize these blocks to reach the exit door is the crux of the gameplay; drop them to make stepstools, throw them across gaps to create makeshift bridges, or form hooks to latch onto high ledges. You can only make one set of blocks at a time, forcing you to design shapes carefully. There is some light platforming involved, thanks to Qbby’s jump ability, but the majority is mastering the art of block-making.
As inventive as Qbby’s powers are, it’s the ingenious level design that drives the gameplay. Each world introduces a new gimmick that you must learn to work around to complete each level. Gravity-defying inverted spaces, forceful wind currents, and destructive black smoke are but a few of the new elements that spice puzzles up. Though a few classic obstacles return from previous titles like spikes, lasers, and falling platforms, I’m floored by how many novel ideas HAL Labs has included in this package, providing a constant variety that keeps block creation fresh throughout the game.
HAL also added new types of levels, including box baby (Qbaby) escort missions and special block powers. The former has you guiding a miniature Qbaby to the exit, which sounds worse than it actually is. Borrowing elements from Lemmings and Mario vs. Donkey Kong, you create platforms, which the Qbaby automatically travels through. In turn, they also activate switches that help you cross, adding a surprising layer of cooperative action.
Helping these box babies pays off in each planet’s final world, where they bestow you with new types of blocks, such as rocket-powered and explosive boxes. These powers are both fun to use and incredibly clever, tasking you to think several steps ahead before even setting the blocks. My only disappointment is that there aren’t more of these special powers, making me yearn for an unlikely sequel.
Although there are numerous new stage hazards and powers to learn, the majority of levels are fairly simple once you get used to them. Series veterans, especially, will find the puzzle design awfully familiar, since HAL borrows concepts and solutions from older entries. In addition, you generally only deal with one gimmick per world, preventing most levels from becoming too complex. It’s only in the final worlds where the game begins combining stage elements in devious placements to trip you up, offering a huge difficulty spike. You may even need to use the game’s helpful hints, which you can purchase with 3DS Play Coins, to guide the way. Luckily, checkpoints are generous, and retrying is as simple as pressing the shoulder buttons.
The best challenge is collecting crowns scattered throughout the level. These collectibles are usually tough to reach. And if you use up too many boxes within the level, the crowns disappear, adding a resource management element for diehard collectors. Additional replay value comes in besting your own times and attempting to beat levels using as few boxes as possible. Your stats are all recorded, satisfying that arcade mindset of trying to outdo yourself. Finally, the game awards medals after each level based on performance, which you can use to purchase costumes, mini-comics, and music. You can also obtain challenge levels, special worlds that take away one of your abilities, such as jumping.
The game has a very clean, minimalist presentation, with a mostly monochromatic color palette and clean right angles everywhere. If you have save data from the older games, you’ll unlock options that let you filter the color scheme to resemble the Game Boy’s neon screen or the Game Boy Pocket’s grayscale. Additionally, scanning in amiibo from the Kirby series grants you box-versions of the pink puffball and his friends. The synth piano music is soft, giving a cosmic-sounding vibe. It’s pensive and never distracting, providing the perfect backdrop as you work your brain.
Bye-Bye BoxBoy! is an excellent sendoff to Nintendo’s underrated square mascot. With nearly two dozen worlds of 6-8 levels each, there are at least seven hours of gameplay, not including extras. If you’ve played the first two games, you know what you’re in for. Though the core concepts are identical, Qbabies and special powers keep the geometric puzzler fresh. If you haven’t experienced the BoxBoy! series and can only pick one, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! has the most variety, providing the most value. Otherwise, picking up the whole trilogy is a great solution for anyone seeking ingenious portable puzzles in bulk. Bye-Bye, BoxBoy! We’ll miss you!
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on Darkstation.