Bye-Bye BoxBoy! Review: Staying Within the Lines

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Bye-Bye Boxboy!, the seeming finale to BoyBoy’s black and white and white adventures doesn’t think too far outside its own box. But that doesn’t make it dull as its colors.

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: April 12, 2017

Despite living in the shadow of its newer, shinier, Switch-ier cousin, the Nintendo 3DS is still quietly churning out a steady stream of mildly interesting titles. The most recent surprise was Bye-Bye BoxBoy!, a puzzle platformer from the makers of Kirby and the third game in its eShop-exclusive series. No prior knowledge of the series is needed to square up into the shoulders of the cute protagonist. Just pop into your little square spaceship and be on your way.

Bye-Bye Boxboy!’s hero, Qbby, is a box capable of producing other boxes that allow it to progress through various levels and worlds, with each world themed around a different type of puzzle and the levels reflecting increasing degrees of difficulty for that puzzle. On each level, Qbby can produce a certain number of connected boxes at a time in a shape of its choosing and has a total box limit that it can produce in each level before that level’s collectible crown disappears. Qbby then may use the boxes as bridges, stairs, or hooks, or it can loop them to higher places and use them to pull itself up or over.

bye-bye boxboy
Credit: Nintendo /

Each level is short, usually only 3-4 puzzles long, and themed around a particular type of puzzle. For example, some puzzles require you to block lasers off with your boxes so you can pass. Others require you to place boxes on switches to open doors. Some levels will grant your boxes special abilities, such as turning them into bombs or rockets, or allowing them to float in water. Other levels are escort missions, where you must keep yourself and a smaller, baby-sized box following you safe. By gradually learning the capabilities of the different box formations and abilities, Qbby progresses, freeing a series of corrupted planets and releasing their limited color palettes from darkness.

These short-lived gimmicks did little to change the fundaments of the game or what the puzzles were asking me to understand.

BoxBoy’s charm has always been in its simplicity and Bye-Bye Boxboy! does not change this. The color scheme is almost fully black and white, lines are basic and easy to understand, and puzzles are almost invariably square-shaped. Wordlessly, Bye-Bye Boxboy! guides you through each puzzle, teaching you by showing you and allowing the player to find solutions through trial and error without harsh punishment. A simple tap of L and R will take the player back to the last checkpoint with their boxes intact, and you can begin again from the start of a level at any time, too. If that’s not enough, Play Coins can be exchanged for outright solutions.

bye-bye boxboy
Credit: Nintendo /

While you likely won’t struggle too hard with most of Bye-Bye Boxboy!’s puzzles, they do increase in difficulty over time, allowing the player a few moments of brilliance on the later levels as they bask in the thrill of solving a particularly finicky problem. Even if you breeze on through most of them, the sheer number of puzzles HAL Laboratory has brought to the box-verse will keep you occupied for around ten hours–long enough to throw some of the rewarded in-game currency at a cute costume or two. Did you ever want to dress up Qbby as a squid? It’s stinkin’ cute, I promise. You can also tap amiibo to dress him in Kirby-series outfits in a gentle nod to HAL Laboratory’s more famous series.

Bye-Bye Boxboy!’s gentle guidance and low-key difficulty setting inspires players to try and try again rather than skip puzzles. Since most of the game’s crowns are out of the way, I found myself always willing to pursue them due to the ease with which I could try again if I placed my boxes poorly. With this design, Bye-Bye Boxboy! ensures that its players play because they genuinely enjoy all parts of the experience. By eliminating obvious frustrations, the sheer pleasure of discovering a solution to a series of increasingly difficult problems is enough to inspire 100% completion, or close enough to it. By so adeptly balancing challenge and ease, playing Bye-Bye Boxboy! is a nearly zen-like experience.

bye-bye boxboy
Credit: Nintendo /

But as much as I enjoyed my third round of adventure with Qbby, I couldn’t help but feel that Bye-Bye Boxboy! did little to push its own limits. Sure, the third installment added a few new puzzle types, such as wind and water, but these short-lived gimmicks did little to change the fundaments of the game or what the puzzles were asking me to understand. I’m not asking HAL Laboratory to fix what’s not broken, but playing Bye-Bye Boxboy! feels nearly identical to playing either of its predecessors–as if it were merely an extended DLC or just one really long game.

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I found little fault with Bye-Bye Boxboy!, but I also found little to get truly excited about. It’s a peaceful, pleasant, laidback sort of game from start to finish, but there were no moments of brilliance or surprise. Rather, you’ll find your stroll with Qbby more comparable to completing a crossword puzzle on a Sunday afternoon. Enjoyable and relaxing, but not particularly memorable.

Bye-Bye Boxboy!. 7.5. After a long and exasperating day at work, Bye-Bye Boxboy! is the kind of relaxing mindgame you want to come home to. It’s cute and laidback while being devoid of the design-based frustrations that plague many puzzle platformers. By remaining user-friendly, Bye-Bye Boxboy! promises that you’ll remain engaged in your journey with Qbby from start to finish through the game’s hundreds of brilliant, physics and geometry-based platforming puzzles. Though Bye-Bye Boxboy! plays it safe in a way that makes it less than memorable, you’ll nonetheless find its gentle challenges rewarding.. HAL Laboratory.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.