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Boxville Review


Outside of anomalies like Return to Monkey Island, the point-and-click genre seems to be surviving in small, indie games like Boxville. Instead of huge, multi-hour adventures, these games are arriving in bitesize chunks, and – at least in our opinion – it’s a positive shift. We get to explore divergent worlds without having to maintain a mental map of every last location and item. 

It’s certainly why we love Boxville. It comes in a pocket-sized box, no more than a couple of hours in size. But it makes use of all of that space. It’s a wonderful, fully-realised world where trash (and tin cans in particular) live together in tight, boxy spaces, and all of the scattered detritus lends itself perfectly to a graphic adventure. 

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A tin can and their dog

Boxville is definitely a vibe. There’s some Machinarium here, particularly with the anthropomorphised rubbish and the love of machines to tinker with. But it’s most similar to the work of Cotton Games, who’s given us the Mr Pumpkin series and RainCity. If you’ve played them, they’re point-and-click adventures where the world is slightly skew-whiff, and that factors into the puzzles. Half of the joy comes from moving through the world, finding abstract people to talk to with very logical problems. That’s very much the M.O. of Boxville. If you had told us this was a Cotton Games title, we would have believed you. 

Boxville starts with a lost dog. Or, at least, a lost tin-can dog. You (a larger, more humanoid tin can) play fetch on your rooftop, but an earthquake sends the dog down into the lower-reaches of the city. You’re not up for just jumping down with it, so you need to find a way – safely – to its location. As long as it’s still there, of course, and no one has half-inched it for nefarious purposes. The rascals. 

This is the sole plot of Boxville, and it doesn’t need anything else. Because, as the saying goes, it’s all about the people you meet on the way. Boxville is populated with cranks, bullies, thieves and weirdos, all living their lives in the city of Boxville, and – almost to a can – they have their problems.

These problems are presented as comic strips, drawn on cardboard for you to decipher. They are not one-hundred percent clear, as important information isn’t pushed to the front. The lack of text leaves things open to interpretation. For example, we encountered a can that had fallen through an industrial fan, but we hadn’t spotted the pertinent information in the strip, i.e. that he had lost a tiny leg on the way. Clarity is Boxville’s biggest issue – it can sometimes be opaque about what you want to do, simply because a tiny, innocuous detail might have passed you by. 

But these comic strips are still lovely, and really ram home the impoverished, ‘recycle everything’ world of Boxville. When everything is clear, you have a strong idea of what that person needs, and it’s your turn to get it. 

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How are you solving this?

A hurdle that every console graphic adventure has to overcome is the controls. Do you opt for full character control, or do you employ the cursor? Boxville opts for a cursor, with a gentle wiggle animation to highlight something that can be interacted with. There are no verbs here: you only have one thing that you can do with the cursor, which is ‘use’ (or more than one thing that you can do, if you count the ability to bring down items from your inventory). The result is an extremely simple and frustration-free take on the point-and-click.

In a Dante-esque fashion, you move further and further down through the rings of Boxville, following the clues about your dog (and getting panicked that something might have happened to the blighter). He’s adorable – we wouldn’t let anything happen to him. There are also two neat, parallel threads running throughout. The earthquakes keep happening, and something must be the cause. You get to find out of course. Taking advantage of the earthquakes is also a bully/vandal, and you follow in his wake, as he steals, kicks and punches everyone. It can often feel like you’re a tornado-chaser, observing an aftermath. 

But what makes Boxville sing is the atmosphere. Boxville feels like a complete, tactile world, and that’s down to the art and character design. There’s no physical media here, but the art does such a wonderful job of emulating corrugated cardboard, rusty cans and peeling labels. It just feels so real and believable, and the characters – all of whom talk in garbled, Sims-like gobbledigook – are just so warm and authentic within it. 

A point-and-click adventure is nothing without its puzzles, and the logic is – on the whole – top drawer. The ‘what ifs’ that pop into your head are regularly rewarded, as you try out something and find that, yes, that’s what Boxville wanted you to do. There’s a wayward logic to it all, which is exactly what you’d want from a graphic adventure in a world of cans and boxes. That’s clear even from the opening, as you’re tilting a ladder so that a sleeping old man can tumble down the ladder and into locations where you want him. The balance between weird and too-weird is perfectly handled. 

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A brilliant little adventure

Where it stumbles is clarity. We checked a guide on three or four occasions, which is more than we’d like. But if we were to categorise our failures, they were because the game wasn’t great at highlighting itself. Items in the inventory had no description or name, which led to one problem where we thought we had some kind of cuff for a pipe, but it turned out to actually be gaffer tape. If we’d known, we would have solved the problem much easier. But our failures all shared this feeling; we didn’t really know what Boxville was trying to tell us. 

Not that we held it against Boxville. Point-and-click adventures always have solutions, and those solutions are easy to list in a walkthrough. So, we stumbled through the moments of illogic and found another character, another situation, that twinkled with delight. In its best moments, we reverse-engineered solutions to a scene: we knew we needed a clover, which meant we needed three coins to give to a back-alley dealer, which we knew we would get from a defunct washing machine. Now, just how to get into that washing machine?

Boxville may be a world of soggy cardboard boxes and rusty cans, but we found ourselves climbing right in. It’s an absorbing place to be, and point-and-clicking our way through its many situations was a joy. It could have done with being a touch more obvious about what it wants – we had our thumbs in a walkthrough for a lot of it – but, overall, this is a pint-sized graphic adventure that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.


  • Wonderful, tactile world
  • Full of engaging characters
  • Has a weird streak running through
  • Adorable can-dog
  • Items and dialogue can be textless and unclear
  • Puzzles have a few logical leaps
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 16 August 2023 | £8.39
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Wonderful, tactile world</li> <li>Full of engaging characters</li> <li>Has a weird streak running through</li> <li>Adorable can-dog</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Items and dialogue can be textless and unclear</li> <li>Puzzles have a few logical leaps</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 16 August 2023 | £8.39</li> </ul>Boxville Review
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