You might have thought that Bye-Bye BoxBoy would be the last game in the series, but like an action film star brought out of retirement for one last mission, BoxBoy is back for more puzzle platforming. This time, though, he’s on Nintendo Switch, looking more box-like than ever, and he’s got some friends to play with.
As the title implies, BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! introduces co-op to the series for the first time, but it actually goes beyond that. If you don’t want to play as Qbby through the first single player story, you can instead play as the bow-wearing girl box Qucy right from the off (she was previously an unlockable extra), switching between them whenever you like on the world map. Their co-op adventure is a separate story that’s playable with two people, while there’s also a third story that unlocks after beating the main one. There’s a huge number of levels in this game!
As a newcomer to the series, BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! took a little while to grow on me. This puzzle platformer is all about spawning strings of boxes from Qbby’s body in a direction of your choice, and using this to create steps to jump up, platforms, block dangers, and more. It starts gently, getting you used to the very basics, and when combined with Qbby’s straightforward movement – his jump is one block high and two blocks in distance – it just feels a bit basic. But it keeps on evolving beyond that, adding different abilities as you progress through the story. Eventually it grabbed me.
It’s not long before you can hook onto ledges and pull Qbby up, can pogo-stick your way around on a tower of boxes, and have to overcome anti-gravity pools. For fans of the trilogy of games on 3DS, it doesn’t go as far as the fancier abilities found in Bye-Bye BoxBoy, which had rocket and portal boxes, and so that might be a disappointment for those players, but it is more manageable for newcomers. You’d have to expect that the Switch is going to bring this series to a new audience, so that’s an important balance to strike.
The story is about as cute as an apocalyptic intergalactic attack can be, with what looks like day to day family life for Qbby, Qucy and a clutch of Qbabies disrupted by globs of bubbling blackness consuming their world. You have to journey through worlds collecting glowy boxes that can clear this away and rescuing other characters. It’s a fun way of wrapping things together, with a little of Japanese cinema’s dark open-endedness thrown in at the end for good measure.
Each world focuses around one core puzzling, exploring it for just seven levels before moving onto the next one. Within that there can be some surprising twists and mental teasers to get your head around, especially on the handful of occasions that multiple abilities are needed. It’s nothing that will have you completely stumped for days, but there is a hint system if you need it and you can trade in level completion medals for boosts to speed, invulnerability or the number of boxes that you can spawn. It’s really very easy-going though, letting you die as many times as you want and letting you reset to the last checkpoint without adding a penalty to the number of boxes you’ve used.
The co-op puzzling is simple and effective, designed specifically for two players. Interestingly you’re sometimes given varying ability to spawn boxes, so you might have Qbby be able to spawn strings of four boxes, while Qucy can only create two, pushing you into different roles within the puzzles. If you’re without a partner, you can also opt to play this mode solo, switching between the two with a quick tap of the trigger buttons.
Two types of medals are earned from collecting crowns and from beating box use targets, and they can then be handed in for fun little comic books, minigames and costume pieces for your characters. They’re not much, but do add a little extra impetus to go back and improve your score outside of simple completionism. Beating the box targets is satisfying, but not all that tricky once you realise that you can often get a much lower box count by not fully spawning the boxes.
The game is still minimalist, but less so than on 3DS. Where these games were black and white to a fault, there’s more colour thrown into the backgrounds here. Bye-Bye BoxBoy had gradients, but now there’s different patterns and motion. The world map has objects off in the distance and more character tottering around, but it’s also here that the game’s performance issues are most obvious. When there’s multiple elements in motion, the game starts to feel noticeably sluggish. It doesn’t harm the game itself, but you can definitely feel it.