I've become a pretty big fan of the Art Style series, which is a series of mostly puzzle games developed by skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo. The next one I tackled was Art Style: Boxlife. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew the game was about constructing boxes, which I originally thought sounded like it would be more tedious than fun.
By now I should've known not to underestimate the geniuses at skip Ltd. Boxlife is easily on par with the other entries in the series I've played, and is one of the best puzzle games I've ever played, period. The review at Nintendo Life has a good run-down of the game's mechanics, features, and modes, but basically you're tasked with cutting out 6-piece shapes from a given board and then folding them to form boxes. In that sense it's rather like a more tactile version of tangram puzzles, but the game gets satisfyingly (and eventually, rage-inducingly) difficult. The main mode introduces new shapes one at a time (you'll be surprised at how many different ways there are to make a box out of six squares), and although you'll start off just searching for the shapes, eventually you'll recognize it's faster to look for particular categories of patterns, e.g. four squares in a row with one square connected on one side, and one square on the other.
Although I debated about promoting this game to my favorite games of all time list, I think one of the sure signs of a great game is that it gives you a unique feeling of pleasure. In this case I found myself feeling like not just a factory worker, as the game suggests, but as a seamstress or a tailor, cutting patterns from cloth while trying not waste any, or as a sculptor, chiselling away at a hunk of marble trying to find the pattern hidden underneath. As with the other games in the series, this entry is also bursting with charm. The "la la la" of the opening music, the box-shaped visuals, the mini-sim life aspects, the animal sounds that reflect how quickly you finished solving a puzzle (with an elephant's triumphant bugling call indicating the fastest times), everything adds up to an extremely polished experience. I was also struck with how, like Art Style: PiCTOBiTS, the game is so dependent on the DSi's unique controls. IGN's Craig Harris's comment that PiCTOBiTS is “an extremely unique... puzzle game that could only work on a system with precise, pinpoint controls like the Nintendo DS and its stylus driven touch screen” exactly applies here as well, and the pixel-perfect precision of the controls really make this an experience as opposed to just another puzzle game.
In Nintendo fashion the game favors density over padding, so there aren't a plethora of levels or modes, but the game ramps up the difficulty quickly and replaying levels to get perfect scores is worthwhile as it hones your mastery of the game's mechanics. The later levels become much more about using logic to find the solution instead of just recognizing the different puzzle piece shapes, and I was reassured when I saw that Totilo at Kotaku also failed to complete the final level, which feels about twice as hard as the second to last level (already fairly challenging). Regardless of that downer, the game is extremely polished and memorable, and like manna for serious puzzle fans.
Assemble these Art Style: Boxlife links:
- Audio of the original Japanese ending credits, at Tiny Cartridge
- Entry at Metacritic