final score2.5 out of 4 stars
Entering its second year, the Nintendo Switch has blossomed into a platform of rebirth and experimentation.
Lesser-known franchises have found new life on the system. Its popularity and portability have made the console an attractive place to launch overlooked gems of the past. The system has seen its share of re-releases, such as "Captain Toad" and "Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon," but it has also been a place where obscure titles like "BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!" can find success.
The puzzle franchise has been a cult favorite on the Nintendo 3DS. For the Switch, the developers at HAL Laboratory introduce cooperative play along with more than 270 new levels. If that sounds intimidating, players should note that "BoxBoy!" stages aren't long. Rather, they're bite-sized scenarios that require players to use the box-making abilities of heroes Qbby or Qucy.
Players hit a button, and the heroes spawn a series of connected boxes that can be tossed to overcome walls and pits. It starts off easy, but the developers layer in more elaborate obstacles, such as switches and spikes, and put limits on the box creation to increase the difficulty.
Along with that, Qbby and Qucy gain new abilities during the campaign, and these introduce gameplay complexity. They'll have the power to use the boxes as a grappling hook. They can shove them across chasms, use them almost like a pogo stick, and pound the boxes into the ground.
"BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!" rewards those who efficiently beat a level by using the fewest boxes possible. They are given in-game currency that is used to buy new costumes and unlock comics and music. The extras are decent, but the satisfaction of perfecting a level is more thrilling.
In addition to the single-player campaign, "BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!" has a two-character narrative that uses the talents of the titular heroes. That can be a challenge for cooperative play or those who go it alone. There are additional storylines after completing the other modes that expand the story and character choice.
With so much solid content at a $9.99 price, "BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!" is a great value for those who are looking for a different kind of puzzle game.
For experimentation, nothing speaks more to Nintendo's off-the-wall ideas than its "Nintendo Labo" series. The games are inspired by the do-it-yourself ethos of the maker crowd and push players to make their own peripherals. Despite the great idea, the execution has been hit or miss.
Some "Nintendo Labo" projects come off as tech demos while others have the feel of a full-fledged game. Unfortunately, "Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit Starter Set" is more of the former.
It offers players a taste of virtual reality. Players make the goggles by following directions posted in the game. The process is a cross between learning origami and putting together IKEA furniture, except the directions Nintendo offers are much clearer through the Switch.
The VR goggles work by putting the Switch console into the cardboard contraption and holding it up to the face. It offers a surprisingly wide field of view, and it's convincing. Unfortunately, the VR kit is also awkward to use. It doesn't come with a head strap so players have to hold the device up to their eyes. That means players have to use their free hand to use a Joy-Con to control a character and enjoy the minigames.
By creating the blaster, players have a more comfortable experience. It attaches the goggles to a shotgun-like peripheral. Players naturally hold the blaster with both hands and push the headset to their face. The games tied to the blaster are also more developed than the goggles-only demoes.
Players will experience a semblance of a campaign as they battle through six missions and fend off an alien invasion. They'll have to cock back the fore-end to load a shot and press the trigger near the grip to fire. The shooting can get intense as players are taken on rails from point A to point B.
Like other cardboard VR experiences, the virtual reality is immersive but not perfect. The Switch can push out simple graphics, but those tend to get blurry if players move their head. Because of the design, players can't use headphones which means players have to rely on the tinny sound of the console. That holds back the VR immersion.
All of this makes the "Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit Starter Set" a nice curio in the development of the technology — a decent introduction to VR that doesn't really show off the potential.