Hidden gems and surprise games are a bit of a rarity these days in the gaming world. There's so much coverage out there for everything minor and major that surprises don't come in as often as they used to. Despite that, BOXBOY! for the Nintendo 3DS from Nintendo is one such game.

This showed up in my inbox from Nintendo as little more than a code with a set of embargo restrictions regarding review publication time and things in the game that we could and couldn't mention. None of that is abnormal, mind you, but the information presented was sparse.

So, I looked the game up. I found barely any coverage at all when it came to this odd, mostly black and white puzzle platformer. I did see, though, that it was developed by the folks at HAL Laboratory, Inc. Yep, the same studio that makes games like Super Smash Bros. and Kirby.

So, yes, BOXBOY! now had my attention.

Fantastic Core Mechanics

The premise of the game is pretty simple. You unlock worlds by completing previous ones. Each world has roughly seven stages in it, and each stage can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending upon the difficulty of the puzzles within.

You play a box with the ability to don unlocked customs and spawn strings of boxes out of your body. Each stage has its own limit of spawnable boxes, and you can throw the boxes, set them down or attach them to a ledge and suck your way through them like climbing up a rope.

Those core mechanics work really, really well in this game, and you'll find yourself learning new ones at a constant clip at the onset, and then the puzzles start to settle in around that strong core.

You might need to, say, drop the right number of boxes in the right position in front of you in order to bridge a gap. Or, maybe you need to hold onto the boxes in order to create a shield that stops lasers. Whatever the case may be, each level is a string of evolving challenges, complete with a fast reset trigger that lets you hop back to previous checkpoints by pressing the shoulder buttons down at once.

Boxes disappear once you spawn new ones, and you have a target maximum that you can use per stage, or else the crowns scattered around the level vanish and you'll miss that perfect score bonus. Bonuses earn you tokens, and tokens unlock costumes, challenge levels and soundtrack stuff.

Each world from beginning to end offers completely new mechanics. There are 20 different worlds, too, so you'll be building upon that core set of puzzle solving moves constantly in this game, and it feels really clever the entire time.


Deceptively Simple Art Style

If you've been around TechnoBuffalo long enough, then you likely know that art styles in games normally don't keep me from playing them. It's rare that I look at a title and get turned off by its art design. However, I wasn't happy with the way BOXBOY! looked in the screens.

It looks cheaper than it really is. It's not until the game starts to introduce a storyline to you (one that I can't talk about) that the art style starts to become a lot more than what's presented in the simple screenshots and early levels.

BOXBOY! is actually really great looking, and the simple character models do all sorts of complex and clever things that moves this game beyond just a black and white piece of vector art and into sort of a wonderful thing. Take, for instance, the sunglasses you can put on. They bob and move with the character, and he'll actually lift them up as if he's trying to get a better look at something from time to time. It's uncharacteristic in such a simple looking world, and that really adds to the game's overwhelming sense of charm.

Charm is the best word for it, really. Once you start playing BOXBOY!, the mechanics and art style woo you over to loving it. The two conspire in a way that will make you want to keep playing the game for longer sessions than you originally intended. It's addictive, plain and simple.

BOXBOY! - 12

BOXBOY! is a charming puzzle game for the Nintendo 3DS that you absolutely should pick up.

Nintendo asked that we talk about nothing beyond world 6 for BOXBOY!. In a game with 20 worlds, that seemed weird to me going in. I sort of expected this thing to nose-dive in quality, or something.

That's not the case at all. In fact, without explaining why, BOXBOY! only gets better after the sixth stage. I really can't tell why Nintendo would ask us not to talk about that stuff, but I offer that embargo rules can be weird from time to time. Just know that BOXBOY! is wonderful, and I managed to 100 percent the main mode before turning to the challenges. That's how addicted I am.

This is a deceptively simple puzzle title that will reward you for playing with both strong challenges and a charming sense of style. BOXBOY! is straightforward, funny and fun, and it's the best surprise I've had so far this year.


Disclaimer: We received a code to download and review BOXBOY! on the Nintendo 3DS. We completed the game's main mode and a ton of the challenges before starting this review.