Boxboy + Boxgirl

A game by HAL Laboratory for Switch, originally released in 2019.
Boxboy + Boxgirl is part of a long running series of puzzle-platformers starring the box-shaped Quby and several of his similarly box-shaped companions. The prior series consists of Boxboy, Boxboxboy, and Bye-Bye Boxboy, all of which originated on the 3DS handheld, which was well-suited for the bite-sized challenges the game had to offer, as well as the simple visuals. The visuals here are faithful to the original series, so the upgrade to a higher resolution simply allows for somewhat smoother lines in an otherwise black- and white-dominated orthogonal world.

But the world was not always so dark… One day, a big inky blob came down from the skies and covered the colorful box world with goo, rendering it black and immobilizing many of Quby’s friends. As such, he sets out to rescue them, along with Qucy. In 1P, the player is free to swap between these two characters at will – though they are functionally identical – but players can also team up for 2P cooperative play in a dedicated mode, or fully solo players can also play this mode alone by swapping control between the two characters.

Qbby, Qucy, and their rectangular pal Qudy make their way through levels by extending blocks outward from their bodies. Each level has a maximum number of blocks – usually between three to five – that must be used to overcome any given challenge. Players are able to create stairs to climb, bridges to cross gaps, hooks to get around corners, and various shapes to press switches that control moving platforms or activate doorways.

The game takes place across hundreds of levels, which are broken into several hub worlds, and each door in the hub leads the player to a set of themed challenges. Most of these challenges are designed to be completed in a matter of seconds, although they may take a couple of minutes on your first attempt as you suss out what needs to be done. As with the previous games in the series, challenges do not build on each other significantly over the course of the game, at least until the final levels. Instead, the player makes his way through a short series of escalating challenges, after which he is able to enter another door and complete a set of unrelated challenges that generally require entirely new tactics.

The player earns new abilities over the course of his adventure. The first new ability allows you to retract yourself to any block that is touching the ground, and this is generally used to mount platforms. By creating a hook shape, you can jump, land one of your boxes on a ledge or distant platform, and then retract yourself to that point. Later you gain the ability to hop on extended boxes like a pogo stick, send boxes flying across the screen, or knock blocks downward… and at any point, you can visit previously-completed levels to use abilities you picked up along the way.

Each level has three goals: Your primary goal is to reach the doorway at the end of the level, for which you are given infinite continues and a generous checkpoint system that minimizes repeated gameplay. A secondary goal is to pick up one or more crowns along the way to the exit, most of which are placed just off the beaten path, and some require advanced techniques to reach. Finally, there is a par number of blocks for each level, which encourages you to think about ways to play through levels using the fewest blocks possible.

You don’t have to collect the crowns and get the par number of blocks in a single run, however, so you are free to use as many blocks as you want in order to complete the level, and then return for a separate run to go for par on the number of blocks. On the other hand, there is also a ranking system that is hidden on your initial play through the level, but you can go back to previously-visited areas to see your completion time, score, and letter rank if you’d like to try to improve your numbers. If you want to earn an “S” rank, you’ll have to collect the crowns, stay under par, and complete the level quickly.

Completing these goals rewards the player with two different kinds of currency. Diamond shapes are awarded for completing the level and collecting crowns, whereas beating the par number of boxes awards medals. There are three tiers to the box par goal (think bronze, silver, and gold), so you get more medals depending on how close you got to the par for the level. For some reason, the box par is not shown in the HUD during the level, but rather accessed via a menu, and the HUD also does not display the number of boxes the player has used in the level.

Diamonds are used in a shop to purchase comics, music tracks, assist items, and challenge levels. Comics are cute short stories featuring characters from the Boxboy universe. Music tracks let you listen to music tracks from the game, as expected. Assist items are single-use powerups that can help you overcome levels if you get stuck, and these include increased movement speed, increased jump height, invincibility, and the ability to extend your blocks by one additional unit for the duration of a level.

Challenge levels are standalone challenges that include a balloon popping game where you’re locked in a confined area and must pop 10 balloons under a time limit. You can pop balloons by running into them, throwing blocks at them, or extending your blocks into them, and you can make whopping 9-unit block extensions, allowing you to create any shape you need without penalty. Beating par times in balloon popping challenges awards more medals.

Medals are spent on purchasing accessories for your characters, which alter their visuals. These accessories are random and are generated from a gashapon machine. Accessories may be selected from a menu and are broken up into categories for head, eyes, mouth, and body.

If you’ve played any of the previous games in the series, you’ll have no trouble blasting through most of the early levels. And even if you haven’t played the previous games, the challenge in the early going is quite low. Since challenges don’t build off of each other significantly, the difficulty doesn’t really start to ramp up until close to the end of the game. Still, some strategies do carry over from one level to the next, particularly those that center around dodging hazards or manipulating switches.

As with all of the games in the series, you have a 1x nonvariable jump and a strictly limited ability to extend boxes outward from your body, up to the limit indicated in the upper right corner. Once you have created a set of boxes, you can drop them in place or throw them, which causes them to turn grey. These boxes may be walked across, jumped upon, or pushed, provided you have the room to do so.

Quby squats down when making boxes, and even though he has stubby legs, this small difference in height impacts where boxes will fit. While there is some freedom to solve puzzles as you like, there’s definitely a right way to do it that will allow you to stay under the box par, and many challenges have only one possible way of completing them. This may leave players stumped in a few areas, but there are some remedies to this: Players may spend a bit of currency to get a hint, use one of their assist items, or leave the area to take on another level, since some worlds may be completed in any order. If you mess up and use boxes unintentionally – or get yourself stuck in an unwinnable situation – a quick button combination lets you warp back to the last checkpoint with no penalty.

There is a decent amount of gameplay variety as each world focuses on a different type of challenge. For instance, some levels have you extending boxes to dig through the dirt to open the path forward, while challenging you to leave platforms for yourself to stand on. Some areas see you creating box configurations that will block you from being hit by lasers or touching blocks made of electricity. Springboards send you flying in the air, or send your boxes flying into the air, and some of these are manually activated by switches, forcing you to think about how move your boxes properly to trigger them.

Some levels have you teleporting around the room, pushing blocks of varying sizes, or dealing with moving platforms without getting yourself – or your boxes – crushed and destroyed. When dealing with moving objects in the environment, sometimes the goal is to get yourself onto these moving objects, and sometimes you need to drop your boxes on them to activate switches. You are constantly asked to think differently about how you interact with the environment, with virtually every permutation of movement explored over the course of the game.

New abilities are unlocked as you rescue your friends, and new items are added to the shop as you complete level sets and open treasure chests. The story is cute but minimal, and is played out entirely in pantomime. Once you’ve taken on the world as Quby, Qucy, or both, you can try out a mode dedicated to the rectangular Qudy, which has you creating rectangular blocks, and reorienting your body to push out horizontally- and vertically-oriented boxes.

Boxboy + Boxgirl was developed by HAL Laboratory , which also developed the previous games in the series: Boxboy, Boxboxboy, and Bye-Bye Boxboy. 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, is based in Japan, and has developed games almost exclusively for Nintendo systems.

The game was published by Nintendo.