This is your cannon, this is your gun. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s fun.
When it comes to puzzle shooters, developers need to walk a fine line in order to make a successful title. They have to be creative and challenging, but make something too hard or too easy and you’ll lose quickly lose a player’s attention. BoxBattle, a new puzzle shooter from Madnick, is one of those games that manages to hit most of the right notes, but seems just a tad ambitious for its own good.
While games of this genre aren’t normally known for their plots, there is a backstory provided on BoxBattle’s official website and iTunes page; something about two nations at war and how you’re a newly-recruited gunner for an army who has to take out the opposing side’s barricades. However the game itself doesn’t mention any of this, so it’s safe to assume that this is really all about shooting puzzles and nothing else.
The basic idea is that you want to fire your cannon, to knock the green boxes situated on various platforms off the screen. Red boxes need to be left alone, however, because knocking those out will reduce your score. Each level requires a minimum score to advance, but there’s also a bonus challenge that will provide players with a massive point multiplier if they’re able to pull said challenge off. Each time you fire a bullet, it costs a certain amount of points, with different types of ammunition carrying varying price tags.
There are a total of ten ammunition types, each have different abilities and attributes: large bullets can hit more boxes and move them faster (but have more mass and weight to account for), Freezing Shells will coat metal platforms with ice (making them easier for blocks to slide across), and Annihilation Bombs can instantly destroy any box they come in touch with (but no points are awarded for these).
Each map features a different layout, sometimes with moving parts, but more often with crazy block stacking and obstacles that require some creative thinking to get around. Some levels are particularly challenging, peppered with balanced platforms, explosive boxes, and rubber barriers that will bounce items around. All of these levels look better than they should, thanks to all the background art creating a beautiful steampunk tapestry composed of moving gears and steaming pipes.
BoxBattle technically features over 130 levels, but only twelve of them are available for free. Buying the other 120 will only run you $2.99, which is a steal for the sheer amount of content provided. That said, the initial levels are plenty tough, and will likely take you quite a while to work through.
The biggest problem with this game is that when you’re stuck on a level there’s no option to simply skip ahead, nor is there a hint system. One or the other (or both) would be greatly appreciated by most casual gamers, who are likely to quit the game if they can’t get past a particularly difficult part.
BoxBattle has many moments that are genuinely fun and challenging, but they’re almost counterbalanced by puzzles that are too hard and impossible to bypass. That’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot of great content players would surely enjoy. As it stands though, the game’s own inflexibility isn’t letting users see its best parts.