Alright, so BoxCat – what do we have here? Well, we got a cat that likes to jump in boxes – okay. Lots of box-related enemies – nice. And – wait a second… what’s this? An abnormally small hitbox? Oh no…
Let me be honest: after looking at the trailer for this game I really, really wanted to play it. It looked like it’d be a solid platformer with smooth animation, a fun box-related theme, and some solid platforming. Did I end up getting that? Well, sort of.
Where I really enjoyed bits of it, there were other parts that – to be honest – kind of made me want to pull my hair out. Whether that actually weighs the overall game down, let’s see!
Jumping In Boxes: The Video Game
The basic setup for BoxCat – created by OPEN LEVEL – is this: you have five chapters, each containing around twenty to twenty-five levels. Each level contains the usual enemies, objects, and items; including three coins you can collect per stage. The coins themselves don’t seem to do anything but are a nice addition to have nonetheless. They serve as a challenge since grabbing them all often means delving into some rather difficult areas.
But as far as the simple concept goes, you jump in a box to start the level and your goal is to make it to the throne-box at the end. Each level more or less plays out similar to a puzzle; as there are usually certain steps in a certain order that require doing before you can progress.
A good example of this is needing to jump in a box so that you gain the ability to double jump over a gap, but there’s a brick wall across the gap so you first need to get the exploding-microwave-box across the gap to blow up the bricks; but now you need a way back since you blew up your micro-box and can no longer double jump and… Yea, that’s kinda the way it goes. This isn’t nearly as complicated as it might sound but it becomes a problem that I’ll refer to later on.
For now, just know that the first few chapters didn’t really have this problem. Learning the various mechanics at this point was great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the visuals and style; from your main cat-characters creepy ninja eyes to the various box robots (which I passionately refer to as “robox”) that have slight tweaks in their appearance depending on the zone you’re in. BoxCat never looks particularly great, but has a nice enough appearance to be soft on the eyes.
That was all great. I was having fun and thinking about what could await me in later chapters was getting me excited for the rest of the game. It was a great experience so far.
Hitbox Cat: The Bane of My Existence
Well, let me tell you that after four hours and four and a half chapters of gameplay I no longer find this game entertaining whatsoever. However, it really only comes down to some issues that you may be able to overlook, so let me explain.
The first and main issue that I have with BoxCat is the hitbox… or maybe hitbox-es*. I never felt like the image of the BoxCat ever lined up perfectly with the actual hitbox itself.
The number of times I died due to just running right off an edge, even when it looked like I still had room to move, was infuriating. I also have fond memories of jumping on top of an enemy I should be able to kill, only to die on impact… repeatedly! Something I thought was due to being slightly to the right or left of the enemy, possibly in its damage zone; until I then killed the same enemy by missing its head completely while touching its side.
This whole issue was extremely inconsistent and often made me unsure if I’d be killed at random or not. Something you never want to feel in a challenging platformer. To make matters worse, many jumps and damage zones seem like they require pixel-perfect precision; and when the hitboxes already feel off, judging your actual position can become a nightmare.
Keep in mind of course that there are still a large number of levels that didn’t give me as hard a time with the hitbox as others; but it was certainly often enough that I consistently had trouble with it during my playtime.
Forgiveness and Complaints: In the Ring with Mechanics
Now, along with some other minor issues, including very occasional freezes (I only experienced two during my four hours with the game, you may experience more) I honestly feel that all this could be patched or fixed in some way that doesn’t end up staining the overall experience for others. Expanding the hitbox and allowing a small amount more leeway for certain sections or areas would help immensely. If these issues get addressed, my opinion of BoxCat would improve by a very large amount.
However, there are still points about the game that I feel drag the experience down, but the following will be far more subjective and are really only my sense of taste.
For starters, BoxCat does a great job of introducing new mechanics. Each chapter has shown me new things, from boxes you can climb to water you can swim through; as well as bounce pads, and a generous amount of dangerous obstacles and enemies. If we ignore the aforementioned issues, then this is all a fantastic addition to the game. I was always at least a bit excited to see what new mechanics I’d be working with.
Sadly, I feel the game missed a major opportunity in the fact that BoxCat, while introducing a good amount of mechanics as far as I played, never built upon any. Each chapter had it’s own gimmick or gimmicks that were only ever within that chapter.
You may be thinking that it isn’t really a big deal, and I agree to a certain extent; but, since you’ll be working with the same around three to four dangers and/or boxes per chapter, the last ten to fifteen levels begin to drag on a heck of a lot. Once I reached the halfway point of each chapter – excluding the first – I always noticed a piercing sense of boredom creeping on.
Slow Shipping: Repetition, Flow, and Boredom
I think the issue, for me, is that after a half chapter worth of gameplay I’d start to feel that the mechanics weren’t doing anything new; leaving me with a strong feeling of repetition. If each time a mechanic was introduced it instead remained as a gimmick in every chapter onward, then I could see there much, much more interesting level design later in the game. I was so excited when I first saw the climbable boxes introduced; only to see them pushed aside for the next big thing.
Finally, there’s the issue of overall game flow. Personally, the slow movement speed of the character wasn’t that big of an issue at first. However, dying and having to repeatedly make my way through the sluggishly paced levels only led to an extreme sense of frustration. Not only does dying already illicit frustration, but having to repeatedly work through the puzzle-like levels – which often require a lot of waiting around – eventually became more tiring than anything else.
If both enemy and player movement speed were a bit faster I could see the issue of flow and sluggishness being alleviated almost completely; but as it stands, replaying levels after death really isn’t that entertaining. If only because I can feel the time slipping away…
The Package has Reached its Destination
And that’s about it really. I’m sorry if it sounds like I hate this game. Again, I quite liked it for a while, and dare-say you might like it far more than me. It’s dragged down by some nasty hitbox issues and could easily be a great game with some minor tweaks.
If it weren’t for all the unwarranted deaths, I’d probably look more fondly on even the product we have now. At the moment I can’t really recommend BoxCat… but for only $2.99 who knows; You might get some enjoyment out of it.
So go nuts.
(Like packing peanuts, get it?)