Box 2 Box is a new iOS game from Esoteric Development, creators of the popular Tiny Wings-inspired Ski on Neon. The new game is available now from the App Store as a $0.99 non-Universal app with in-app purchases of additional content.
Box 2 Box’s basic gameplay involves getting the player “character,” an abstract shape, from the box it starts in into another box elsewhere on the level. This is accomplished by tapping or holding the screen to “thrust” in the direction the player is facing, and tilting the device to adjust its angle and move sideways. Players have a finite amount of fuel with which to complete each level, and the amount of fuel remaining when the player successfully lands in the destination box determines the star rating they will get for that level.
Various obstacles and environmental elements begin to appear as the player progresses, including “arrow” tiles that shoot the player off in a usually non-helpful direction, additional fuel pods which allow the player to continue thrusting for longer, and blocks that simply get in the way. In some levels, the player must also manually open the destination box by hovering inside a shaded circle for a few seconds.
That’s essentially all there is to it, and it’s this wonderful simplicity that makes Box 2 Box such a great game. Its controls are easy to understand and sensitive enough to not be frustrating, while its levels become increasingly more challenging at a good pace rather than suddenly hitting difficulty spikes. Once the player has completed the “training” episode, they are also able to acquire additional fuel pods via in-app purchase to assist them in bypassing difficult levels. This is still, essentially, paying to cheat, but rather than simply allowing the player to buy their way to victory a degree of skill is still required to actually complete the challenge.
Like its gameplay, Box 2 Box’s aesthetic is minimalist. Levels are typically a flat background color with black and white shapes laid atop, and this clear, crisp appearance looks great on the Retina display of the iPhone 4 and up. Sound, too, is subtle but atmospheric, with ambient music-like sounds playing in the background while simple, abstract, synthesized sound effects punctuate the player’s attempts to arrive at their destination in one piece.
In terms of social features, the game supports Game Center leaderboards (which track the total amount of fuel “saved” across all completed levels) and achievements. After completing each level, the player may use iOS 5’s built-in Twitter facility to tweet about the number of stars they achieved — this tweet also has a link to the game’s App Store page attached, allowing curious players to check out what the game is.
Box 2 Box is an excellent mobile game, proving once again that Esoteric Development understand exactly what most players want from a mobile phone game — short, simple play sessions that are easy to dip in and out of, but enough content to keep them busy for a decent amount of time. If Ski On Neon’s post-release support is anything to go by, too, players can expect at least a few additional downloadable level packs containing new challenges to become available — some for free, some via in-app purchase. The team at Esoteric seems to have found a model that works for them, and if they can keep making games of this quality, they have a bright future ahead of them.
You can follow Box 2 Box’s progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.