Review: Boxboy! + Boxgirl! retains its challenge and charm while moving from 3DS to Switch

After three acclaimed releases on 3DS, HAL’s Boxboy! series said goodbye. But not all goodbyes are forever! With Boxboy! + Boxgirl!, the series returns with a move to the Switch, finding a new audience for its block-pushing platforming puzzles. Does it keep up its innovation and charm, or is the fourth outing just more of the same?

In the game, you’ll control Qbby or Qucy, little boxes with legs that can themselves generate and manipulate other boxes. At the most basic level, you can build staircases and bridges for yourself, but near the end, you’ll have a full suite of abilities that makes traversal a true challenge. The game follows the events of previous games, which is a nonsense thing to say given the nature and importance of the franchise’s plot, and also does nothing to keep new players from starting here.

For its debut on a larger platform, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! sticks largely to what worked for it on the 3DS.

For its debut on a larger platform, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! sticks largely to what worked for it on the 3DS, with a very similar near-monochrome aesthetic and variations of abilities seen in previous entries. Each of these types of puzzles doesn’t stick around for very long, so it’s not much of an issue if you’ve seen some like them before, and the higher-resolution screen allows for detail and definition to make the similar presentation still seem sharp.

Boxboy! + Boxgirl! certainly takes cues from the Mario school of platforming: introduce a basic element, teach you how to use it, show some more advanced situations and then wrap things up and move on to the next idea. Where it goes further is in its level goals. While it’s way more doable to get from the beginning of the level to the end, the game challenges you to complete them while obtaining hard-to-reach crowns and using the fewest number of boxes.

There aren’t too many lessons learned in the early game that you’d need to retain until the end to simply get through, remembering some techniques will certainly let you decrease your box count or accomplish trickier maneuvers needed to get to remote areas. And as your skill set and knowledge increases (as well as the number of boxes you can use at once), the difficulty of challenges scales up to meet you.

The two-player mode’s cooperative puzzle-solving can be a distinctly different sort of challenge, one that’s a lot like, say, asking my colleague Jenni to help me write this part of the review in real time. One of you may have an idea of how to get through a particular area, and it would then be up to that person to try and provide hints about proper block placement in the field. Does the other person have a different idea? Do you even wait to find out? Why not just go ahead and do the thing you have in mind… what could go wrong? Well, a lot.

What do you mean? Some puzzles can have different sorts of solutions in co-op. You might need to make sure your partner is on top of your blocks before you slide them across a gap. The other person might need to have their blocks held out to keep you from dropping onto spikes. Falling on exposed spikes hurts. Okay, so one of us needs to jump on top. Okay. Three, two, one, go. Jump. Jum– oh no. Maybe we should have planned that one better.

Still, when you communicate and plan, these puzzles can feel rewarding in a very different way, especially since both people need to reach the doors to “win.” And even when you don’t succeed, it can be fun to… try. Sure. We can leave it at that.

Or, if this sounds unbearably frustrating to you, you can play all these levels by yourself and switch between the characters with a button press.

There’s a lot in the game to unlock as you go, spanning from the small (costumes and comics and songs) to the much, much larger (a third campaign starring tall-box Qudy). The shop items are minor distractions to give you a break between puzzle worlds, and the costume pieces can be fun to assemble. (There are even parts to recreate the star of HAL’s first mobile game, Part Time UFO!)

There’s a lot in the game to unlock as you go, spanning from the small (costumes and comics and songs) to the much, much larger (a third campaign starring tall-box Qudy).

That third campaign, though, is truly stellar, ratcheting up the challenge for players who, well, have completed the first campaign and unlocked it. It’s a bit shorter in terms of number of levels, but most of these stages take a bit more work to complete. No spoilers there, but it takes a whole new level of thinking to add the extra element of vertical and horizontal rectangles to your repertoire.

Boxboy! + Boxgirl! does take some steps to welcome newcomers that may make veterans tread a bit further into the campaign before hitting a challenge, but it still delivers on a lot of the appeal of the first three games and does so while leaving room for more installments to revisit wilder elements. That said, you won’t feel shortchanged by the amount on offer here; each of the three campaigns delivers more than enough to justify a purchase.

Score: 9/10
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platform(s): Switch
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

Questions? Comments? Talk to us on Twitter or Facebook!