- Developer: Seed By Seed
- Publisher: HandyGames
- Release Date: 17/8/2021
- Price: £13.49/$14.99
- Review code provided by HandyGames
Introducing Pile Up! Box By Box
Pile Up! Box By Box is a puzzle platformer with a great sense of style and a handful of costumes that will absolutely have you throwing your controller across the room. In the best way possible. Its deceptive palette and art style hide what can be a very tricky game. You must try to make your way through various themed levels either alone or, better yet, with a friend or two by your side. It’s a simple presentation and premise that sets up a challenging but fair game, but is it worth investing your time and money into? Let’s dive a little deeper into this Pile Up! Box by Box review and find out.
What’s In The Box?
There isn’t really a story here other than the one in your head. It’s simply a cardboard box (and maybe a friend cardboard box or two along for the ride) in a cardboard world, doing cardboard things. Some of the levels do offer a bit of story or theme as a point of what you’re supposed to be doing, but it’s more of a quest than a story line. Examples include collecting baby frogs or turning on power switches, as in two of the earlier levels. This game doesn’t waste a lot of time on fleshing out a world that doesn’t matter, it wants you to get right to the action.
The Long and Short Jump of It All
The game takes place in a 3D world, but you don’t get to control the camera. Generally speaking, you’re looking at an Isometric view of the world. It never feels like you can’t see what you’re doing or what you need to see to go forward. There is a hub world with gates leading to the various levels, a shop where you can buy costumes, and an arcade where you can play one of the four arcade games (if you’ve unlocked them!). From there you’ll enter the first gate and try your hand at the tutorial.
You can proceed to the next level as soon as you clear your current one and are awarded a key. This is the main game play loop, with each level having its own additions to that loop such as special blocks or mechanics that are needed to complete the level. There are also, as expected, a handful of secrets and hidden goodies tossed about to help keep things lively. Thankfully there are only two types of collectibles – coins and what we came to call “Star Tubes”. Coins are used to buy the costumes whereas the “Star Tubes” are used to open Star areas, special bonus areas hidden within the various levels.
You’re going to be doing a lot of jumping and even more picking up and arranging cardboard boxes to solve various traversal puzzles. Even though a few of the puzzles stumped me, it never seemed to be an issue in Co-Op when I had two other brains helping me out. The game does make it easy to take other players who may not be as skilled on your journey by allowing you to simply pick them up and carry them, with no real restrictions on the player doing the heavy lifting, as it were. Of course, this also leaves the door open for players to pick each other up and throw each other off the level, or even simply pushing them off the edge. But this really is the area where the game shines.
Solo play is fun and the puzzles are engaging, but playing this one with another person sitting next to you takes it to another level. Not only can you play to each person’s strengths, but it also leads to some of the best spontaneous moments that make really great co-op games so much fun. That elevates this kind of game more into my sphere and really made the title for me. This is why it wounds me to complain at all about this game, but there is one glaring issue that hurts any platforming title – Lack of drop shadow. The lack of a drop shadow on your box makes it next to impossible for you to tell where you are in many sections of the game. Anytime you are in the air, you need this shadow to give you an indication of where you actually are in the world and it allows you to navigate your jumps on a 3D playing field. Without it, you’re basically doing the video game equivalent of chucking pumpkins, you might hit something, but it’s rarely because you were aiming for it.
The Box with Kaleidoscope Eyes
I’m going to try not to gush here, but for fairly simple graphics we’ve already seen in other games, the sense of wonder was still strong. Much like the player’s character, the world is made of cardboard and pretty much nothing else. Especially on the Switch, the bright colors and primary shapes really added to portable play-ability and made it very easy for everyone to see when playing docked in Couch Co-Op mode. While the costume selection isn’t that big, the costumes are all very well designed and go with the tone of the rest of the title. I really appreciated the smaller touches like butterflies and crabs in various parts of the game, and even more so when they were reactive. I can’t say it enough, I love the look of this game.
Under The Hood
Whether in handheld or docked mode, the game never studdered or lagged. There isn’t a lot here that should tax the system and it makes the most of every pixel. There did seem to be a little lag on the jump function, or it was extremely finicky, but we tried to mark that up to personality. It could be deliberate as the game does play with physics and the way you interact with the world. Balancing boxes on the very end of a small platform is as valid as any other move. It can be very tricky at times, but never to the point of quitting the game.
Overall, Pile Up! Box by Box Is one of the most fun co-op games in recent months. Pulling your hair out and screaming at your co-op partner is all part of the plan, in the best way possible. One of the biggest compliments I can give the game is that I found myself coming back to play it and trying my best to pull in a co-op partner.
- The puzzles and platforming are challenging without being impossible
- The aesthetic of the game is overflowing with charm
- Couch Co-Op helps this title shine
- No drop shadow makes life difficult
- Jump can feel a little unresponsive at times