Review: Art Style: BOXLIFE (DSiWare)

Thinking outside the box is strictly forbidden.

If there's one thing that can be said about Nintendo's Art Style series, it's that no two games are alike, and we wouldn't have it any other way. BOXLIFE is certainly another unique entry in the franchise: box 'em up and ship 'em out!

Greeted by a cute little theme song you will immediately notice - if you haven't from the title - that BOXLIFE is all about cubes and lots of sharp edges. Initially you will only have access to the R&D department, but there are fourteen stages in all which will have to be unlocked as you progress. You are presented with sheets of paper which have to be cut and rolled up in such a manner that at the end you're left with an exact amount of cubes and no left-over paper. There are ten sub-stages within each stage, which throw bigger and more complicated pieces of paper at you for you to overcome. Don't dawdle too long though: you only have a limited amount of time before you start losing points. If you're too slow you might not even be able to finish all of the paper sheets, which will create a noticeable dent in the end results.

It might seem all too easy at first, but soon you'll learn that mere paper cubes aren't a laughing matter, and scoring a perfect 100 is quite the task in the later stages. Why anyone would pour such avid research into the perfect cube will forever remain a mystery, but obsessive research has its advantages as you are promoted through said box mastery, which will in turn unlock the factory for you to tinker in.

While the factory will still have you making cubes, it plays out quite differently from R&D. In any given level you're allotted three minutes to make the most money (read: high score) you can through several means. Simply boxing up paper cubes one by one won't earn you much dough, but chaining precut boxes together will net you a nice bonus, meaning mucho dinero, amigo! That said, there is no way not to lose money in the process, as each parcel of paper wasted will ultimately count against your income. As you move the seemingly endless supply of paper downwards to make even more cutouts you're bound to be left with scraps only fit for shredding. At the same time bombs will fall from above - no, we're not exactly sure what strange company would intentionally try to obstruct its own manufacturing process either - and these bombs will take out the parcel it's sitting on and the four directly adjacent, all of which will be counted as waste. Fortunately, given enough time, you can clear bombs by boxing them up, which also provides you with a nice little bonus. In addition, you're able to earn (and lose) more cash as you play on the higher difficulty levels from a total of 8; watch out for increasingly frequent and shorter fused bombs. You can only gain access to them by being promoted in R&D, so it behooves you to do your best and gain those immaculate scores.

You accumulate wealth in the factory as you keep replaying the levels, and each new score - high score or not - will be added to your total income. As you reach pre-determined amounts you will be presented with new items for your humble abode as seen on the title screen - there are four sections that can be changed out via the D-pad and face buttons. It may not be much, but it still offers a nice little incentive to keep on going, as well as beating your own high score. For that purpose you can peruse your play session history via the income graphs for each level.

As with all of the Art Style games, BOXLIFE doesn't have a particularly fancy presentation, but, once again, it does work in its favor. Missing any real graphical splendor and offering very rudimentary sound effects, including a rather odd mix of animal noises, its music is always upbeat and quite enjoyable. The gameplay itself is rock-solid and the controls work exceptionally well, once you get used to where you can and can't cut - you can only cut from the outside or from precut sections. While it is possible to play the game by stylus alone it's recommended to play it in conjunction with the D-pad (buttons for lefties) which makes it easier and quicker to change from cutting and boxing to mending.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that Skip knows what they're doing when it comes to puzzle games. That much is clear from what we've seen. While BOXLIFE may not appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game won't be disappointed by this one. It provides plenty of challenge and longevity to make it a worthy investment, barring any paper cuts.