BYE-BYE BOXBOY! (3DS)
Like BOXBOXBOY!, BYE-BYE BOXBOY! is extremely similar to BOXBOY! and, at least initially, is pretty much yet more of the same. It even removes the two-sets-of-boxes mechanic that the second game added. That said, once you get about a quarter of the way through the game, you start to see some of the new mechanics HAL added for this game, and they make the first two games look like a warm-up.
In the early stages of BYE-BYE BOXBOY, the game plays virtually exactly like the first game. You have one set of boxes with the size of each set varying from level to level. Progression is pretty much the same, and the puzzles are pretty simple. After a while, however, you start to go to different "planets," and the last world in each planet gives you a new mechanic - a special kind of box. The new mechanics are rocket boxes, bomb boxes, teleportation boxes, and remote control boxes. Each of these controls very uniquely and can take some getting used to, but they totally change the way levels play out and puzzles are presented. These mechanics make this hands down the best of the 3DS trilogy in my opinion. After the world in which they're introduced, these mechanics are not used again in the main game, and in my opinion, that's a good thing because it keeps them from feeling stale or overused.
As with the second game, costumes you unlocked in the first two games are brought over into this game so long as you have the save file with them unlocked on your 3DS. In addition to this, HAL included some Kirby costumes that are unlocked by using the correct amiibo - Kirby, Waddle Dee, Meta Knight, and DeeDeeDee. You can also unlock a Qucy costume and some color filters with the Japan-exclusive Quby amiibo, but that costume and the filters are also unlockable by having the previous games' save data on your 3DS. As far as I could tell, none of the costumes have special abilities here like a few did in the second game, but that honestly isn't a problem for me as it means I could try out a bunch of different costumes without feeling like I was missing out on fun game breaking.
BYE-BYE BOXBOY! is a great way to end the series's 3DS run, and I think it's definitely the best of the three games. The puzzles are immensely satisfying to complete, often more so than in the previous two games, and the bits of color added here or there really pop against the otherwise monochromatic game. I sincerely hope that these games are released as a physical collection on Switch or even as individual downloads because they're genuinely fun and relaxing, and they're about to become totally unobtainable once the 3DS eShop shuts down in a few months. Definitely make sure you download this game while you've got the chance.
My Rating - 4 Neps
BOXBOXBOY! is the sequel to BOXBOY! and the second of the three games in the series released on 3DS. It is, for the most part, more of the same, but with a key mechanic addition that sets it apart from its predecessor. It also has some bonuses if you played the first game and have a save file on your 3DS, and I personally love it when game series include save data bonuses for having played the previous games.
The major addition to BOXBOXBOY! is the ability to have to sets of boxes active at once. In the previous game, you could only have one set active, and if you tried to place more boxes, the previous set instantly vanished. Instead of being able to assemble a series of three boxes, for example, your limit is two sets of three boxes. This sounds really minor, but in practice, it drastically changes the puzzles with which you can be challenged and opens up new avenues for solving puzzles. As with the first game, the first few worlds are extremely easy, and even the first couple levels of a world where a new mechanic is introduced are easy, but by the end of the game, the challenge gets pretty legit. Having just played the original game, I had a feel for the game's physics and how HAL crafted the puzzles, so I didn't struggle with the last few worlds of this game the way I did with a few of the stages in the first game, but there were still numerous puzzles that I had to stop, look at for a minute, and work out in my head with some trial and error before progressing.
My favorite aspect of the game isn't actually the addition of a second set of boxes but rather the bonuses from having played BOXBOY! It's relatively minor stuff, but if you bought the costumes from the shop in the first game, they'll be available to you in this game. What's cooler is that some of the costumes have some extra function to give you a boost in the game, the two best being the bunny costume that lets you jump two boxes high instead of one and the wizard which adds a box to your limit per set. It might sound a little a broken, and most of the time, it is, but there were a few occasions where I had to quit a level and change costumes because I had been using the bunny costume and level required that I make a precision jump under a laser or spike or something, and I physically wasn't able to make a jump that low. Nine times out of ten, whatever outfit you use won't be a hinderance, but I did like that those occasional elements discouraged using the OP costumes all the time.
BOXBOXBOY! is definitely a step up from the first game. The game is still mostly monochromatic, the puzzles are still pretty simple overall, and the game is still short, but having two sets of boxes at your disposal makes for some more interesting puzzles than I saw in the first game, and even if it were literally just more of the same from the first game, that's more a fun, relaxing thing. The stages are the perfect length to play while killing time on a bus or subway or to unwind during a lunch break or bathroom break. Definitely check this out before the 3DS eShop closes.
My Rating - 3 Neps
BOYBOY! is a cute puzzle game from HAL Laboratory with a super simple monochromatic style. As the title suggests, you play as a box. A boy box, specifically, named Qbby. The puzzles start out stupid easy, but as the game progresses, you'll have to think harder and harder about how to get past each challenge. Once you get to the post-game, it's downright tough.
As you traverse the game's 17 worlds (22 including the post-game challenge worlds), each containing between five and seven stages, you'll have to master a variety of skills from arranging your boxes to timing your box placements to move past spike conveyor belts. You have to figure out how to cross gaps, ascend to higher ledges, depress multiple buttons at once, avoid lasers, etc. These challenges can take some thought and trial and error, but fortunately, you have infinite lives; checkpoints are frequently, and you respawn at a checkpoint as soon as you die. While it can get frustrating towards the end of the game, it's a great game to work your brain as it forces you think about how to tackle obstacles from different perspectives.
BOXBOY! isn't terribly long, and there's not a huge amount of variety in the game, but it's definitely worth playing. It's only available on 3DS, though, and only digitally (at least in North America; there's a physical collection with the three 3DS games in Japan), so you'd better hurry up and download it before March, 2023 if you're interested in it. It's not going to blow your mind, but it's a solid puzzle game and well worth the six or seven hours you're likely to spend with it.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Outbreak (PlayStation 4)
Also available on PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, and Windows
Outbreak is a retro-style horror game from indie developer Drop Dead Studios. It is heavily inspired by Resident Evil, and while it is a little bit on the nose with that sometimes, it does enough different to keep it from being written off as a copy.
Outbreak bills itself as a co-op retro-style survival horror game. It has a top-down perspective that feels similar to Robotron, but it adopts tank controls similar to Resident Evil. It does have three variations on these tank controls to suit your desires, but given that every system's controllers have two analog sticks, the use of tank controls rather than dual stick controls just feels awkward and wholly unwelcome. That said, the controls do work just fine and don't take long to get used to even if they are far from ideal. I do have to give them credit for supporting not just co-op but local co-op, a feature disturbingly absent from many modern games and one that I always love seeing included.
The story is told over the course of four or five levels by finding journals and notes spread throughout the world. The game's levels take you through a hospital and its underground facilities as you try to make your escape following an outbreak of a zombie infection of some kind. Pretty generic totally-just-Resident-Evil-2 stuff except replace the police station with a hospital. Still, though, while it does nothing to reinvent the wheel, it does what it does pretty well. One major grip I have, though, is that the "full" story is locked behind difficulty. There are three difficulties - Normal, Hard, and Nightmare - and to get the full story, you have to play on the hardest difficulty. As the patron saint of Bitch Mode, I call shenanigans on this entire premise. Your inventory is also woefully small - you can only hold a maximum of four items - but that's pretty standard for survival horror, I guess.
The game is pretty short - probably around four hours for a full playthrough - but the fact that there's co-op makes it worth playing through more than once with friends. There are also some short self-contained story levels as well as endless horde levels to give the game some extra replay value. I, personally, didn't enjoy the combat enough to care about playing those horde levels solo, but I could see how it could be fun if you have a friend to play with.
Outbreak is a competent indie horror game, but it's definitely not going to fool you into thinking it's made by a big studio or with a big budget. It wears its limitations on its sleeve. Still, though, for what it is, it's an enjoyable zombie romp. I'm not sure I'd use the term "horror" as I didn't find it scary at all, but horror is also my favorite genre, so it takes a bit to scare me; folks who don't play a lot of horror games might disagree with me on that one. If you find it on sale for, say, $8 or less, I'd say it's worth it. At the usual price of $10-$12, depending on your platform, though, it's a harder sell unless you're big into couch co-op. Wait for a sale, but if you're into couch co-op, this is a solid choice for the season of spoop. I will say, though, the couch co-op is what cemented my rating at 3/5; I was really torn between placing it at a high 2 or a low 3 without the local co-op element.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Amnesia: Rebirth (Xbox Series X)
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux, and Windows
Amnesia: Rebirth is both a sequel and a reboot of sorts of the series. It's a sequel in that it directly follows The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs chronologically, and it directly references some of the characters and events mentioned in The Dark Descent; but it's also a reboot in that it requires no knowledge of the previous games to enjoy and understand, and looks and plays significantly more like a modern game. That makes sense considering it was released in 2020 whereas The Dark Descent was released in 2010.
It takes place a few decades after A Machine for Pigs and follows Tasi as she wakes up alone and confused in the Algerian desert following a plane crash. As she searches for her companions, she finds evidence of their having passed through but seems always to be a step behind them. As you make your way through the game, you'll uncover some of Tasi's memories as well as notes and journal entries left behind, both of which serve to uncover the truth of the game's story. Pay attention to these, too, as the characters and their development via these memories are a major part of what gives the game its dramatic impact.
Each of the Amnesia games seem to have a different focus. With The Dark Descent, the focus was very much on mood, ambiance, and an atmosphere of horror. With Justine, it was on moral choice. With A Machine for Pigs, it was on the overall narrative and the message of that narrative. With Rebirth, it seems to be on characters, although there's sort of a blend of the others, as well. Some parts of the game don't feel like a horror game at all, like wandering through the desert, but other parts feel just as scary as The Dark Descent if not more so. Like Justine, what determines your ending is a key moral choice in the game. Like A Machine for Pigs, the story - in this case, the characters specifically - are given supreme importance. As far as storytelling goes, I think Rebirth is hands down the best of the four. As far as horror goes, it still falls short of The Dark Descent, but it's a solid #2.
Amnesia: Rebirth is a solid follow-up to The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs, and it's definitely worth playing for fans of the series. I, personally, don't care for the desert setting for the most part, but some of the interior environments you explore - a French fort, for example - are EXCELLENT and supremely creepy. Enemies play a much larger role in the horror than they did in A Machine for Pigs, and I honestly think the use of enemies to enhance the horror experience is executed better in Rebirth than it was in The Dark Descent. Overall, the Dark Descent is a scarier game, but Rebirth is still a fantastic experience, and given that it's a decade newer, it looks and sounds significantly better, and those are both improvements and enhance the player's fear. The price point is fair considering that it's the longest game in the series, at least based on my playtime, and it's on Game Pass as of the time of writing, so definitely check it out there if you've got a horror itch that needs scratching.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.