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‘Bye-Bye BoxBoy!’ Review: Be There And Be Square

Arriving two scant years after the superb original BoxBoy!, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! caps off HAL Laboratory’s puzzle platforming trilogy at a high point.

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Qbby, we hardly knew ye. Arriving two scant years after the superb original BoxBoy!, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! caps off HAL Laboratory’s puzzle platforming trilogy at a high point.

While the original BoxBoy! was an exercise in minimalistic aesthetic and design, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! takes cues from sequels such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Portal 2 in taking a simple but ingenious premise and twisting it until it reaches its logical extreme. To be fair, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! actually follows BoxBoxBoy!, the 2016 sequel to BoxBoy! that was a much more predictable expansion of the original. In that game, Qbby gained the ability to create two polyomino-like sets of boxes in order to solve puzzles, as opposed to the one set allowed in the original. This newfound ability yielded some interesting puzzles, but largely felt more like an expansion than a full-blown sequel.

If BoxBoxBoy! was BoxBoy 2, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! is BoxBoy! squared. While the basic building blocks are still the same (Qbby conjures a series of contiguous boxes out of himself that allow him to traverse brain-bending levels), numerous spins on the core formula are introduced. In one world, Qbby can create rocket blocks that propel upward, while in another he can create a warp block to teleport.

Roughly one of these new mechanics is introduced per world, and while they vary in their originality and quality of implementation, none overstay their welcome. New abilities and challenges are almost constantly being introduced, allowing for the game to stay fresh while maintaining the pure, heady, and rewarding gameplay hallmark to the franchise. Toward the ends of certain worlds, I found myself already missing that world’s ability, but also anticipating the new possibilities right around the corner. This continuous ability-switching, along with increasingly complex level design, provides a surprising sense of progression and expansiveness, despite only lasting around eight to twelve hours, including the optional unlockable content.

I also appreciated the lighthearted storytelling, especially in tutorial cutscenes that quickly introduce new gimmicks while also showcasing the game’s warmth and sense of humor. While the storyline is probably the least carefully-crafted aspect of the game, its straightforward placidity is in keeping with the game’s general tone. I was a bit torn on the visual style, however. Color is used slightly more liberally here than in the previous games, and though it might be prettier, I sometimes felt it betrayed the series’ bare-bones aesthetic.

My largest complaint is with the main campaign’s lack of difficulty. Although completing the campaign unlocks trickier bonus levels, I found the eighteen worlds comprising the story mode to be among the easiest in the series. This might have been intentional, as new concepts requiring their own brand of thinking are constantly being thrown at the player, but experienced BoxBoy players will probably find this less challenging than previous games. Additionally, the collectable crowns strewn about each level demand very little extra effort. In previous games, tough crowns would force the player to act miserly and purposefully with the box limit imposed, but here I found myself consistently reaching a level’s final crown without feeling like I had earned it. This made crown-collecting feel less satisfying than ever before, when tougher crown placement could have been a way to compensate for the easier campaign. Thankfully, there are plenty of unlockable levels that crank up the challenge after the credits roll.

I imagine when (or if) Nintendo stops supporting the 3DS, the system will retrospectively and rightly be seen as having a extensive library with highlights in many genres, and while it might not have the name recognition of the Zelda or Animal Crossing franchises, the BoxBoy! games are some of the best puzzle-platformers out there. Despite its brevity, the final game in the series is a shining example of what the last game in a trilogy should be – an expansion and exploration of the series’ foundation, and a fitting capstone that maintains the series’ heart. Bye-Bye BoxBoy! is a colorful game that brings the series full circle, and ends our square hero’s journey on a roll.

Kyle is an avid gamer who wrote about video games in academia for ten years before deciding it would be more fun to have an audience. When he's not playing video games, he's probably trying to think of what else to write in his bio so it seems like he isn't always playing video games.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Patrick

    May 7, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I went into this thinking it would be kind of like BoxBoxBoy, feeling just like an expansion, but you’re right – they found so many ways to make everything feel fresh again, it brought that magic of the first one back. Also, while the campaign is easy, like you said, I feel like the extra worlds might have some of the toughest puzzles in the series! At times getting a crown has had me staring for what seems like an hour. If this is how BoxBoy ends, it went out with a bang.

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