Bye-Bye Boxboy

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by HAL Laboratory for 3DS, originally released in 2017.
Qbby and pals have returned for one more adventure in the Boxboy universe, this time entitled Bye-Bye Boxboy. This is the third game in the series, following Boxboy and Boxboxboy, each of which features Qbby using his box-extending powers to create shapes that allow him to navigate levels and solve environmental puzzles. As before, the visual design is quite minimal, with simple black and white backgrounds, boxy environments, and Qbby himself appearing as a box with legs. The story is also minimal, tasking Qbby to save a series of planets, but a new element is added in the form of Qbabies that introduce several new block types that significantly impact gameplay.

As in the previous games, Qbby has a low 1x jump and the ability to extend boxes outward from his body to create platforms, shields, and hooks, and these tools allow him to cross gaps, avoid being killed by electrical beams, and pull himself up to higher ledges. The length of these box chains is dictated by a counter that allows for shapes between three and eight blocks in length, but most levels limit this number to four or five blocks. In this regard, the game is more like the original Boxboy, which offered similar puzzle designs and restrictions, rather than Boxboxboy, which allowed players to create two smaller stacks of blocks.

As such, the new game backs off on the challenge slightly, in a puzzle-platforming series that has a low difficulty level to begin with. However, things are kept interesting by new mechanics that are (very) slowly introduced along the way. The player once again finds himself navigating a largely featureless corridor and entering doorways that lead to sets of about a half dozen levels each. Each set of levels is centered around a single mechanic, most of which are tutorialized in the opening level and then expanded upon in the rest of the set.

You are first shown all of the game’s basic moves so you can get up to speed, should this be your introduction to the series. You’ll learn how to extend blocks away from your body, drop or throw them, make stairs, make hooks and reel yourself in, activate switches, and create snakes that let you pull yourself through tight spaces. Each level has one or two crowns to be collected, and these are often placed off the beaten path. Collecting these crowns grants the player more currency at the end of the level, which may be spent on music tracks, comics, challenge levels, and costumes for Qbby, and some costumes can also be unlocked by using amiibo.

Should you have saved game data from the original games, you immediately unlock a Qucy costume (Qucy is Qbby’s female companion), and this costume allows players to ask for hints as often as they like without penalty – these hints show the exact block configuration needed to solve the puzzle at hand – and also removes the limit on the total number of blocks that can be used to complete a level without incurring a penalty, which makes the game significantly easier. Any other costumes unlocked in previous games also carry over, including the bunny outfit that allows for a 2x jump, which gives the player an advantage in some of the platforming challenges, although it's less useful in the Qbaby-focused challenges.

At the start of the game, Qbby sees three planets, and he must venture to each in order to complete the puzzle-platforming challenges within, and these planets must be completed in order. Each set of levels centers around a specific type of challenge, with a few obstacles returning from previous games – such as electricity beams and conveyor belts – but several new obstacles are introduced as well. Some of the new challenges include shapes that fall down from the top of the screen and drop off the bottom. The player must make his own shapes to stop the falling blocks in such a way that they can be used as platforms to continue through the level.

Some areas feature blasts of wind that push you to the left or right, along with any blocks you have placed, and there are often switches placed strategically that require you to create a set of blocks and hop on top of them as they are pushed ahead, granting you safe passage while also triggering one or two switches that open the door in front of you. Wind can also push you upward, giving you a greater jump height, and strong winds can prevent your movement altogether, requiring you to make snake shapes that wrap around objects so you can pull yourself forward a bit at a time. Water introduces some new challenges as you can place boxes that float along the surface, or you can get pushed upward while submerged.

What sets Bye-Bye Boxboy apart from its predecessors is the presence of Qbabies. Each planet has a Qbaby in need of rescue. Rescue missions appear about halfway through each planet and require the player to escort the generally helpless Qbabies from one end of the level to the other. While players often groan at the presence of escort missions – with good reason – this game presents them as a natural extension of the puzzle platforming mechanics.

You don’t need to worry about a Qbaby doing something silly and getting stuck or falling to his death without your control. Instead, you must create shapes that set up safe paths for the Qbaby to move forward, such as creating bridges across gaps, blocking electricity, or setting up situations where the Qbaby activates a switch to open a door. Sometimes you are physically separated from the Qbabies and can only drop blocks down for them to use. If a Qbaby reaches a ledge and cannot continue forward, it will stop and wait for you to act, and it will automatically make hops to mount low platforms or cross small gaps.

In the final set of levels at the end of each planet, the player gets to make use of the rescued Qbaby’s powers to create some unique – but short-lived – puzzle scenarios. The first of these abilities comes in the form of box rockets, allowing the player to toss a block that ignites and slowly rockets upward, which can be used to activate switches on the ceiling before the rockets run out of fuel and fall back down as regular blocks. More interestingly, players can leave the rockets attached to themselves and use them as makeshift jetpacks to hover over gaps, or create multiple rockets in a specific configuration in order to fly upward and press switches.

The next ability comes in the form of bomb blocks that let the player blow holes in solid ground and walls. These levels also introduce some special indestructible blocks that prevent players from blasting their way through the whole level or accidentally creating unwinnable situations by destroying necessary platforms. When a stack of blocks is created, only the furthest block becomes a bomb, allowing the player to snake the explosives around corners and place them strategically. Bombs are used to blow up spikes, create holes for electrical beams to activate switches, and clear obstructions away from falling blocks. The explosives have a short range and will only blow up blocks immediately adjacent.

On the third planet, the player gains access to a warp box that allows him to toss a box and warp to it, creating situations where the player must chuck a box through an electrical beam and then warp safely to the other side. Similar to the bomb box, only the furthest block acts as a teleporter, but more complex puzzles are create by the fact that the player often needs to create a stack of boxes and then warp to the top of them in order to bypass obstacles and move forward. These levels often allow the player to make shapes that are five or six blocks long.

Finally, the player earns the levitation block, which allows him to create a block, disconnect it from Qbby, and move it freely around the area. At first, the player just uses the ability to activate switches with single blocks, but soon, the player is able to create long snakes of levitation blocks that he needs to ride while suspended over bottomless pits and spikes. Here, the puzzles center around maneuvering the snake around corners and creating shapes that not only open doors but also give Qbby a safe place to stand. The player can't move while maneuvering levitation blocks, so he must often inch forward a couple of blocks at a time when standing on them.

Each area is centered around a specific challenge, but level sets don’t build upon each other in terms of escalating the difficulty of the puzzles (the same was true of the first two games). Instead, the challenge drops back down as players move from one door to the next, without much need to apply lessons learned from previous levels. Only in the final area does the player encounter situations where he must combine these lessons to overcome a mixture of puzzle challenges.

There are a number of challenge areas to purchase, each appearing with an inverted color scheme and each focusing on a different puzzle element. These challenges include making it through a set of levels without tossing your boxes, generally requiring you to create various snakes shapes to get through; levels where you can’t use your hook or snake maneuvers and must find other ways through the levels; single-screen challenges where you need to collect crowns and get back to the door; challenges where you die when falling from a height of two or more blocks; and challenges where you are unable to jump, requiring deft use of block configurations. Completing the game unlocks a series of bonus areas with more difficult levels.

Bye-Bye Boxboy was developed by HAL Laboratory , which also developed the previous games in the series: Boxboy and Boxboxboy. HAL Labs is best known as the creator of the Kirby series, as well as several other well regarded series, including Mother (Earthbound), Super Smash Bros., and the Adventures of Lolo, among numerous other games. The studio was founded in 1980 and is based on Japan, and has developed games almost exclusively for Nintendo systems.

The game was published by Nintendo.