Sometimes, puzzle games can be a little too complicated for their own good; layering on not just mechanics but also overly complicated menus or design elements.
There’s a very pleasing minimalism to Box Align, a puzzle game by QUByte Interactive. Upon starting the game, you’re presented with some coloured boxes on a stark background, accompanied by an appropriately chilled out ambient soundtrack.
There’s no hand-holding; you’re expected to work out what exactly you need to do in order to progress. Luckily, the aim is simple: line up at least three boxes of the same colour by picking one up and moving it to a different position, at which point those boxes will disappear. Clear all boxes on a level by creating three-plus box combos this way and you move to the next puzzle.
Sounds simple? It is. At least, up to a point. Gradually, new types of boxes are introduced – including cages (that spawn a further box of the same colour when they’re used in a row of three or more boxes), rainbow boxes that can substitute for any colour and boxes locked into a specific position that can’t be moved.
The minimalist approach to the design can, at times, work against the game. There’s no rewind option; the only way to proceed if you’re left with a rogue block or two that you can’t get rid of is to restart, which can – for some of the larger sets of blocks, be quite a hindrance. Not only does it feel like an overly unnecessary grind to go right back to the start once you’ve cleared a large volume of boxes, but also it’s very easy for you to then make different (or even the same!) mistakes on your next attempt. That said, the relaxed, timer-free levels – coupled with the lovely ambient music – do go some way to mitigating any frustration that may otherwise have been felt.
Another issue is that the controls are a little awkward at times; in handheld mode, the touch screen is put to decent enough use and does somewhat solve this problem, but with the Switch docked, there’s no way around this.
There are 99 puzzles in total, and though some put up a serious challenge, at other times you can breeze right through a stage – yet, on occasion, it can feel more like luck than judgement when this happens. At the time of writing, I’m around a third of the way through the full set of puzzles – and there have been occasions where some puzzles have left me absolutely stumped, yet the following three or four stages have been conquered without any difficulty, often on the first attempt.
It seems unfair to be too harsh to Box Align, however. For the very low price, there’s an awful lot of content – and the unfussy, minimalist approach is certainly very appealing for the most part. The game is very focused on providing a simple, appealing and chilled out puzzle experience; an aim which it is definitely successful in achieving despite the few issues it has.
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC
Publisher: QUByte Interactive
Developer: QUByte Interactive