Developed and published by Triomatica Games, Boxville puts you in the shoes of a soda can living in the top part of a city constructed of boxes (with a few metal canisters here and there). During a tremor, you and your sardine can dog tumble down from your high-rise apartment, and now you must pursue your pet further into the city’s depths.
As is already apparent, the setting is appealingly weird. Everyone is a can of some sort. The characters store items within their stomachs and fish out of large buckets. Also, in addition to the city’s infrastructure composed of boxes, there are electricity poles made of threads and needles, and the sundial is a cardboard circle with numbers drawn onto it.
Hearing this, you would think it’s a wholesome place, but it’s not. As you go deeper into the city’s complex, you see waterlines and electrical wires cut. Homeless tin cans are smoking and starving. You also notice corners of cardboard buildings water-logged and sagging. It’s almost like seeing a child from a struggling family assembling his playbox with scraps of thrown-away items. It’s a unique and unusual world, a blend of dystopia laced with wholesome moments in which your actions contribute to its rebuilding.
It’s the overall presentation that creates this impression. The developers state that the graphics are all hand-drawn, and it shows. The animations are minimal but also have a hand-drawn feel. As an additional note, the style seems eerily reminiscent of symbolist art. It is allegorical, supposed to represent life, but in a fantastical way. The electronic music is calming yet also otherworldly. The instruments are hard to identify, but I think they blend well in the background and fit with the bizarre tone the world already conveys.
The story of Boxville is straightforward but heavily relies on “show, don’t tell.” There is no dialogue, only muffled grunts that sound like the inaudible adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons. Instead, the narrative depends on pictures to convey a character’s explanation of events. The images are like looking at a storyboard, ensuring you never feel lost when playing. The narrative has a couple of twists and turns and explains the faulty infrastructure you will encounter. However, none of the characters are fleshed out; they add significance to the plot and puzzles, but that’s it. You don’t even know their names or “brands.” Still, the story is easy to follow and reveals the world bit by bit.
The gameplay itself is the rare hands-off approach akin to older point-and-click adventures. You click where you want to go or what you want to interact with. There is an inventory to store items you can combine or drag over a specific environment. There are also challenging puzzles that are excellent tests of your intellect. At least, that’s true most of the time when taking into account how little the game holds your hand. The tutorial itself is pretty much “Here are your basic functions. GO!” There’s no hint system or a way to highlight interactable objects without the pointer. You are on your own. Those who have played classic adventures such as Grim Fandango or Myst will find this to be somewhat familiar.
It’s an experience that is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it feels rewarding to figure things out on your own. But in Boxville, there are environmental factors on which you need to use items that are not highlighted by your pointer. I only found these by moving a specific object over them. There were times when my progression halted because of this. Also, the puzzles seem like fair intelligence trials, but how they test that intelligence is often frustrating. Just as a minor spoiler, the first puzzle you encounter is assembling a blueprint where all the ends of the pipes must be connected. Discovering how many pieces you must use requires extensive trial and error. While the goal is clear, how to achieve that goal isn’t. At times like these, sheer persistence primarily helped me find the solution.
The main menu is nonintuitive. Like the “show, don’t tell” storytelling, the menus are all in pictures. There are few settings to fiddle around with, just the music and audio. The others are either quitting to the desktop, returning to the game, credits, or starting from the beginning. The last one is the worst because you don’t know what it is until you try it. I learned the hard way, accidentally restarting from the very beginning of the game. The fact that there aren’t labels for something as disruptive as losing all progress to start a new game – since there are no save files — is annoying.
Boxville is tough to rate. It took me about four and a half hours to complete. It features a compellingly unique world and art style. Yet, the mechanics and puzzles have their frustrations, sometimes feeling like perseverance over intellect is needed.
WHERE CAN I DOWNLOAD
Boxville is available at:
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