As winter approaches, I’ve begun the time-honored tradition of spending large chunks of my time sitting inside, sipping on a warm coffee- or tea-based beverage, and getting addicted to as many games as possible. These days, we tend to put most games into two main categories. First, you have your longer, in-depth games that you can really sink your time into. Second, you have a subset of games that the iTunes App Store lovingly refers to as “5 Minute Fixes,” or games that you can pick up for a few minutes at a time, perhaps in line at the store or while riding a bus.
What is often overlooked in the area of game reviews (particularly for platforms like iOS) is that quick-fix games and time-sucking games are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Today I’m going to look at Esoteric Development‘s puzzler Box 2 Box — a deceptively simplistic game whose level-based design makes it good for short, segmented bursts of play, but where the increasing level difficulty can make for maddening, time-sucking fun.
Box 2 Box is a very minimalist game that requires you to (wait for it…) move your ship from one box to another box (shocking, right?).
The controls are a standard touch-and-tilt situation, where tilting the device will steer left and right, and tapping on the screen will cause your ship to engage the thrusters. Accelerating your ship burns through a finite amount of fuel, so short, controlled bursts of thrust is recommended, particularly because your performance on each level is evaluated based on how much fuel you’ve managed to conserve upon reaching the destination box.
The level pictured above is the first, so it admittedly looks bafflingly simple. That said, the game certainly gets more complex. Later levels become labyrinthine in layout, which can take multiple attempts to solve purely because you won’t have enough fuel to find your way out the first time. Additionally, the levels become filled with items, both helpful and adversarial, that make level completely a bit more difficult.
Let’s start with the good stuff. At the top of the screenshot above, cradled between two spring cubes (more on those later), you’ll see a fuel pod. Picking up a fuel pod replenishes the amount of fuel you have (indicated in the top right corner of the screen) by a small bit, and is usually necessary in order to solve the level. The white blocks are merely stationary obstacles, and their un-pictured, dark colored counterparts mostly just bounce every which way when you collide into them. They’re mostly neutral, but I mention them here because I noticed a few of them tend to hide other power ups, like fuel pods.
Now for the not-so-good stuff you might encounter. Referring back to the screenshot above, you’ll notice a number of small circles with arrows in them, mainly along the bottom underneath the ship. These are Gravity Wells. Coming in contact with them pushes your ship in the direction indicated by the arrows, which can sometimes be beneficial, but usually causes you to careen out of control and bounce off of things. Which brings me to the spring cubes, which are the bloated squares that are scattered throughout the level. Depending on how you hit them, these suckers are most likely to cause problems — like when a line of Gravity Wells forcibly launches you into a spring cube at full speed.
All of these elements are expertly combined as levels advance to create more challenging and complex levels.
As you make your way through these levels, your progress will be tracked on the home screen. You’re awarded a maximum of three stars for completing each level, based on how much fuel you have left at the end of the level. Each level set requires a certain number of stars to be obtained before unlocking, and typically introduces a new game mechanic.
As a minimalist by nature, I find the aesthetics of Box 2 Box incredibly appealing. There aren’t any frilly graphics or superfluous menus to drill through, there is simply you, your ship and the level you must navigate. And some pretty great sound effects, to boot.
Not only are the objects in the game simplistically styled, but the background is a basic geometric pattern and can, in the app’s settings, be cycled through a series of muted, earth-tone colors that somehow manages to encourage peacefulness, despite the sometimes maddening nature of the game.
Box 2 Box, in spite of having a name who’s bluntness and silliness rival childhood favorites like Ball-in-a-Cup, ends up having surprisingly deep and nuanced gameplay. The learning curve allows for rapid understanding of gameplay, but still manages to offer a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment from beating the trickier levels of the game.
At only 99 cents, there’s no reason to give it a shot, so let us know what you think in the comments.