In 2022, Nintendo announced it was permanently closing the E-Shop for Wii-U and 3DS purchases, a process that was finalized in April of 2023. It was a sad occasion for video game preservationists, as it meant players would lose access to a huge chunk of titles exclusively available for digital download. Even Nintendo itself had to shed a few first-party games, including BoxBoy!, a charmingly simplistic puzzle-platformer released in 2015.
The release was developed by HAL Laboratory, a company largely known for its work on the Kirby franchise. While the team was chiseling away at the next Kirby game, it began work on a retro inspired side project with simplicity in mind. This turned out to be a good decision, as the gameplay suits itself perfectly for handheld use, allowing players to spend as much or as little time as they wish on it.
BoyBoy! stars a plain black square on a stark white background, and the goal is to traverse to the end of each level while collecting crowns. In order to cross gaps, clear obstacles, or block hazards, the box (named Qbby) can duplicate himself up to a certain number of times specified in the level. They can be dropped or thrown to create a bridge, or Qbby can zip himself from his current location to the farthest block. This gets tricky, however, and what starts as overly simple platforming challenges quickly become head-scratching puzzles. The player also wants to limit how many boxes they produce each level, because once a threshold is met, the crowns disappear and cannot be collected. Qbby meets a couple of friends along the way, and to spice things up, players earn medals that can be exchanged for costume pieces, additional challenges, or music tracks.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one enamored by the polygonal protagonist, as it received two more sequels exclusive to the 3DS E-Shop. Then in 2019, Nintendo Switch users were treated to a fourth entry called BoxBoy! + Box Girl!, which as of this writing is still available for purchase.