Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: Puzzle Box Maker [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Games that are family-friendly and accessible to people who skew lower on the age scale, even on the Switch, are pretty sparse. Most are traditional games that support a simplified mode or provide a means of parents assisting their kids. There are a few games like Minecraft or Portal Knights that provide a creative outlet, and they’re great, but aside from that there are few options. Enter Puzzle Box Maker, a curious game that is hard to put a finger on.


The hook here is that the game’s underlying engine is able to take a pixel art picture and repurpose it for a number of game variants. These vary in style and quality but the principle is an interesting one, turning art into games that can be played. There are more action-oriented games like Bomb (you can rotate your art to be blown apart by various bombs), Kubi (you make your little block dude jump around to catch flies, feed your puppy, and avoid getting hit), Run (sensibly, in the style of an endless runner), and Claw (where you grab keys with a claw and move them to a designated area). In addition there are 2 more creative modes, both Classic (you’ll try to paint each pixel correctly while the picture scrolls by), and Copycat (paint the picture pixel by pixel as quickly as you can).


How well this all works varies with the art and how good a job the algorithm does in converting it. The results vary from charming to a disaster at times but it is still all creative fun for the right audience. A nice touch is that for younger (or possibly less skilled) gamers there’s then an ability to make it a little easier so the interest here is in providing maximum accessibility and it is appreciated. You’ll have a massive amount of pre-made art to choose from, and additional pictures have already been added from the community, but the real fun is in giving it a whirl and trying it out for yourself. The pixel art editor is very straight-forward and works nicely. Then, once you’re happy with your creation you can see how well it plays and possibly choose to share it with others. In particular this feature seems very well-geared for families where kids and parents can create levels and try them out together.


In terms of the issues certainly this is not a game for everyone, it is intended either for people who enjoy exploring their creative side or who have younger kids who perhaps aren’t quite ready for mainstream titles and have been dabbling in simpler mobile games. Additionally, not all games work well in all cases. With the pro controller I found Bomb relatively impossible to do well with given the poor response of the motion controls. It fared a little better in handheld mode but was a bit shaky. I also had some glitches with Claw sometimes, with the claw getting stuck, but in general the control for it takes getting used to. The rest of the issues generally rest on how the game’s algorithm decides to interpret your pixel art and the results will absolutely vary.


Taking in the big pixelated picture Puzzle Box Maker is a niche title that’s important to have available as an option in the Switch library. There’s absolutely nothing quite like it on the system and that makes it both a major risk and refreshing to see. Conceivably there’s a never-ending amount of content possible with it, you just need to be very aware of the limits of what is capable of. If you’d like to explore your creative side and be able to experience your art in a unique way, or particularly if you’re raising a younger gamer who still isn’t quite ready for prime time, this could be a great title to explore.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • Technically limitless content is possible with it
  • Strong developer and community support
  • Highly accessible for gamers of any skill level

Cons:
  • Not all games work well
  • The quality of gameplay associated with any given piece of art will vary
  • Likely not for experienced gamers at all

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