HAL Laboratory is responsible for some of the greatest games you've ever played: Pokémon Snap, Earthbound, and the Kirby series. So it's no surprise that one of its latest creations, BOXBOY!, is such an intriguing franchise. The endearing puzzle platformer debuted on Nintendo 3DS back in 2015, introducing the square-shaped character Qbby. It was an inventive and pleasantly challenging game that satisfied those looking for a platformer that would entertain while giving your brain a workout.
Now, BOXBOY! has returned with BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! on Nintendo Switch with the biggest adventure Qbby has ever been on. It's bigger, brighter, and all around better – and the Switch is an excellent home for the little box that could. Rocking over 270 stages and a two-player mode to bring friends in on the fun, this is the best BOXBOY! has ever been.
Hip to be a square
Protagonist Qbby is back once again with a female companion by his time: Qucy. You can choose to play as her in the single-player game mode or in the series' first co-op mode. She's just like Qbby, except she's wearing a little mascara and a bow in her, uh, hair. It's clear she takes lessons from the Ms. Pac-Man school of fashion. No matter which character you choose, it's your job to take either or Qbby or Qucy (or both, depending on which mode you play) through each level to collect all the crowns hidden throughout the level as you guide them to an exit.
It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it would be if there weren't traps and a litany of other obstacles in your way. Both Qbby and Qucy can navigate through each level like you'd expect a normal platformer character to, but the reason for the game's BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! moniker is that they can both create boxes out of thin air. Qucy's are adorable, because they have a bow in the corner, just like she does. You'll have to figure out how to move these boxes strategically to get to areas it looks like you can't reach or to replace missing bridges to get to the next level.
Sounds tough? Maybe not, right? But that's before you see the rest of what the game has in store.
Thinking outside the box
When things start ramping up, you'll have to soon use the boxes for other various purposes like keeping your box friends safe from oncoming projectiles, moving the boxes onto switches to open up doors or get platforms to start moving, and many other things that you wouldn't assume a box is appropriate for.
There's a lot to do, and you've got to figure out how to do it fast, as the game's difficulty ramps up at a rapid pace. Getting to the level exit starts out as a reasonably simple task, but a few stages in and you could be tearing your hair out. It's a lot harder than the previous games in the series, and while many will relish the difficulty, it may turn others off.
Unfortunately, one reason you may be frustrated also includes some difficult to manage controls. It can be difficult to judge where a thrown box will land at some points in the game and jumping becomes a little harder later on as you progress as there appears to be some input lag when playing with the Switch docked. I did not notice this while playing in handheld mode, however. When you're required to use precise timing, this can make a huge different. There are enough places to save so that your progress is checkpoints here and there, but it can be frustrating to have to try and try again when you're having trouble already compounded by the lag.
Box it up
Even with its faults in mind, BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is an exciting and well-designed platformer with a lot to offer. Its co-op mode is done exceptionally well, and playing with another person on board obviously makes it simpler to deduce what you should do and where you should place boxes when things get more difficult later on.
Since the series has finally come to Switch, it also would have been nice to see more attention paid to the game's graphics or some additional detail added to liven things up a bit, but it's understandable that the minimalistic aesthetic is something of a BOXBOY tradition by now.
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is another great HAL Laboratory offering with only a few small missteps that keep it from being a perfect example of how to make a puzzle platformer. Everything else is great, though, and if you need another game to add to your growing Switch collection, you really can't go too wrong here – especially if you've got another BOXBOY or BOXGIRL in your life you want to share this adrenaline-pumping boxy adventure with.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher. BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is available now via the Nintendo Switch eShop. It has been rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL!
- Challenging puzzles and intriguing level design
- Optional co-op mode for the first time in the series
- An abundance of levels to play through
- Easy to learn as it plays much like a regular platformer
- Some input lag when playing in docked mode
- No extra oomph now that the series is on Switch