Bye-Bye BoxBoy! Review
BYE-BYE BOXBOY seemed like a weird place to start my Boxboy experience. It’s the last title in a trilogy of quaint little monochrome puzzle games from HAL Laboratory, best known for their work on the Kirby series and the early Super Smash Bros. games. My concerns about a lack of familiarity cheapening the experience were completely unfounded – BYE-BYE BOXBOY! is a wonderful place for beginners to jump into the series.
You control Qbby, a little box in a black and white world, navigating bite-sized levels full of puzzles to progress. As well as the regular run and jump abilities of a standard platformer, Qbby has some unique powers that aid him in solving the puzzles that stand between him and review.
Qbby’s first and most fundamental ability is the creation of boxes, which can remain attached to his body, or be thrown and pushed around. These boxes can be manipulated to form bridges over chasms, small sets of stairs to aid Qbby in reaching higher areas he can’t access through jumping alone, or allow him to hook onto a ledge and pull himself up. These basic actions and skills need to be used in creative and thoughtful ways to succeed in BYE-BYE BOXBOY!
As you progress, you will meet the Qbabies – these little box people need help getting to the goal, and will follow Qbby wherever they are able. Once escorted to their destination the Qbabies gift you a new kind of box which becomes essential in your progression through upcoming levels. These include special boxes like rocket boxes that launch up into the sky with Qbby attached, and Bomboxes that can be used to break certain blocks – the Qbabies’ boxes effectively add an extra dynamic to the puzzle-solving element of the game. Additionally, each level also offers optional crowns for the player to collect, which might require a more creative or complex solution.
With all these elements at play, you might expect puzzles to become overly complicated and frustrating, but in true HAL fashion, the game is generally only as difficult as you make it. New gameplay elements are introduced and immediately you’re taught, through in-game play, how they might be used in the future. Complexity is added very gradually, and the game seeks to ensure you have an understanding of each concept before expecting you to build on it. Even when you fail and Qbby dies for whatever reason, he just pops back up right where you left off – there’s no punishment for failure, so you’re free to experiment without anxiety.
A generally relaxed energy permeates all of BYE-BYE BOXBOY! – the visuals are almost entirely in black and white, so there are no colours on screen to excite your senses; and the music is well composed and relaxed. You have all the time in the world to think of a solution – rarely is there a sense of urgency, and even when you’ve tried everything you can think of to progress, there is always a hint available (at the cost of 1 Play Coin) to show you the solution, which allows the player to move on to the next puzzle without tension. Everything about the game’s mechanics and presentation radiates a chilled vibe, making it a low-stress, almost meditative experience.
That relaxed nature of BYE-BYE BOXBOY! Makes it an easy recommendation for anyone with a 3DS. It’s suitable for people without much game experience, as each new element is taught through play, in a stress-free environment. There are a few puzzles that will rack the brain and ask you to think outside the box, but you can decide for yourself when things get too much and take advantage of the hint function to keep Qbby going through his adventure.
Levels are short, and as suitable for a quick play whilst commuting as they are for a longer play session. You can choose to test your puzzling chops by collecting crowns, but this is entirely at your discretion. BYE-BYE BOXBOY! does everything it can to create and maintain a mindful chilled environment, and it’s a really pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.