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BoxBoxBoy! review

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One of the 3DS's sweetest stars gets a typically ingenious sequel.

I loved the first BoxBoy! The line art! The friendly chunks of platform puzzling! The hero who could sprout cubes from his body to overcome hurdles! The exclamation mark! BoxBoxBoy! is an easy sell, then, and that's before you get to its big idea.

And as big ideas go, it's wonderfully fit for purpose: game-changing and yet endearingly modest. In BoxBoy! you could generate cubes for use in levels - in order to cover switches, say, or reach lofty platforms. In BoxBoxBoy! you can generate two sets of cubes at a time. Place one set to the left, and then place another set to the right. Ideal no-fuss sequelising.

It is quietly transformative, and yet it allows for a design that offers a great deal of continuity. BoxBoxBoy! looks just like its predecessor, with its simple, friendly geometrical visuals that might otherwise live in the back of a school exercise book, only coming to life with a brisk flicking of the pages. Structurally, it's very familiar too, as you move through groups of themed puzzles, use Play Coins to unlock hints when you get stuck, collect crowns if you're really acing a level, and cash in medals at the shop, where you can buy comics, music, and outfits for your chunky little avatar to wear. And - how's this for confidence? - even once you're in the levels themselves, you'll see a lot of the same mechanics being used this time around: traveling platforms, spikes, drops, doors with multiple switches, plus and minus points that need connecting.

And yet, two groups of blocks! It changes everything! Suddenly you have to think about the correct order to do things in. Suddenly, you have to think about sequences and timing. Simple example: a traveling platform terminating in a locked door. The switch for the door is on a platform overhead, so you build a bunch of blocks and lob them up there to take care of that. But there's another problem: a deadly laser firing down onto the traveling platform itself, that will kill you before you reach the door. One group of blocks are holding that switch down, but now you can create another, and hold them overhead to keep you safe from the laser. Perfect!

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That's a basic puzzle, of course, and BoxBoxBoy! doesn't keep things that straightforward for very long. Crucially, though, it always builds towards complexity, each world of puzzles introducing its thoughts as carefully and as cleanly as possible, while individual levels encourage you to master a mechanic before you're then made to put it through its paces and subvert it.

It's a gentle path, then, but it takes you to some dazzling places. My favourite part involves using the second set of blocks as a kind of car jack, to slowly lift the first set of blocks into position under some switches. Or maybe it's the part where you create two rafts of blocks on a swift-moving river of spikes, and jump between them as required. No! It's got to be the part where you're stuck within narrow mazes, and you have to use the second group of blocks to prod the first group to the point where you can climb onto it.

This is a generous game, even before you take into account the Challenge World, with its special outfits and lower box counts. What this means is that, while not everything on offer will grab you, you can feel safe in the knowledge that something very different will be along in a few minutes. I wasn't crazy about a suite of levels that hinged on UFO catcher claws, for example, but the next bunch that came along had me protecting a funny little ghost as they waddled towards a ghost switch. Instantly, I was back in the game.

BoxBoxBoy! is lovely, in other words, and while it's a fairly minimalist game, it's still one to savour. A little BoxBoxBoy! every day - a few levels before bed, say - sounds like a lovely way to live.

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