Review: Boxboy! + Boxgirl! (Switch)

It’s hip to be a, well, you know…

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/17/2019 05:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Smart puzzles; constantly introducing new, fun mechanics; co-op is perfectly implemented; earning an S-Rank is addicting
Poison Mushroom for...
Visual style is fun, but perhaps overly bland given the power of Switch; some puzzles are too obtuse in their solutions

The Boxboy franchise launched back in 2015 with a self-titled 3DS debut. It isn’t as much of a household name as some of Nintendo’s other series, but Boxboy has become a cult classic among fans thanks to the series’ brilliant puzzle-platforming mechanics. Now, HAL Laboratory is back with the first installment on Switch with Boxboy! + Boxgirl!. With co-op gameplay and some of the best puzzles yet, there’s a lot to love about being a square.

The first thing that stands out about Boxboy! + Boxgirl! is its staid presentation. The aesthetic of the series has been maintained through every entry and hasn’t changed much at all in the transition from 3DS to Switch. It’s a polarizing art style, frankly, that some fans will adore and others will bemoan. Stark and borderline sterile, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! puts its gameplay above all else. It wouldn’t be fair to say the game is plain looking; this is a deliberate stylistic choice meant to keep the action clear and understandable. It is fair, though, to wonder if the simplicity of Boxboy could be mitigated with splashes of color, texture, or anything else to shake up the status quo and add some spice to the visuals.

As it is, though, I like the art direction of the Boxboy franchise. It’s different in how it skews away from flash and dazzle. I have Lumines and Tetris if I want puzzlers with visual spectacle. Besides, as I already mentioned, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! is all about its gameplay. With over 270 stages to comb through, there’s a whole lot of it, too. Qbby is back as the main protagonist, joined by the lovely Qucy and their rectangular pal Qudy (“the tall one,” as Nintendo describes him). Players can choose to go it solo as either Qbby or Qucy, tackle the game with a partner in A Tale For Two, or face a whole different flavor of challenge in Qudy’s mode.

Boxboy! + Boxgirl! revolves around the series’ signature use of boxes. The heroes can generate squares from their bodies at will, forming clusters that can jut straight out, turn into hooks, be used like a trowel, and more. The sheer volume of inventive uses of the boxes in a Boxboy game is mind-boggling. What’s more, the way that these squares are used is constantly evolving. One minute, players have to use the shapes to scale sheer surfaces. The next, players are hurtling boxes to activate switches and guard against death rays. Boxboy! + Boxgirl! is like an idea factory for puzzle mechanics.

Two-player here is new to the series, yet it also feels like it’s been a part of it all along. Something about the Boxboy formula lends itself well to co-op. Working together to solve puzzles has a delightful flow to it. Anyone looking to experience Boxboy! + Boxgirl! with a friend should totally give the multiplayer a whirl. Qudy, meanwhile, has a unique feel thanks to his elongated shape. Playing his portion of the game is both familiar and not, which offers a pleasant break from the action when players want a change of pace. With so many stages to tackle across all three chunks of the game, it’s amazing to think that this is a single package. It felt like there was always something new to see no matter how many times I came back to Boxboy! + Boxgirl!.

If there’s anything about Boxboy! + Boxgirl! that left me a little sour, it was that some of the puzzles could become overly obtuse to solve, especially if a player is trying to hit S-Rank on a given stage. Using boxes economically saves time and raises the player’s score, but the “how” of it can be far from obvious on occasion. Early on, I was utterly clueless about how I could “snake” my way around the game environment by pushing Qubby and Qucy around using their boxes. When I eventually learned how to do the maneuver, it was because I’d headed to YouTube as opposed to finding clues in-game. If I missed something, I’d love for a reader to let me know, but otherwise the breakdown in communication at that point in the game was beyond frustrating.

Overall, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! does much more right than wrong. Outside of some ambiguity in how to perfectly solve a puzzle and a generally underwhelming visual style, Boxboy! + Boxgirl! is a daringly innovative puzzle-platformer. There’s so much to see, so much to do, and with another person in tow the whole adventure takes on a different dimension. This is one of the best new franchises to come out of Nintendo and HAL in recent times and further proof of how both companies are not showing any signs of slowing down. Boxboy! + Boxgirl! should be on everyone’s download lists.

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