The Boxxle effect

As I sat watching women’s gymnastics this evening and surfing the Apple App Store for games, I stumbled across a Boxxle knockoff Sokoban game for the iPhone/iTouch. It got me thinking about Boxxle, which came out for the original Game Boy (Egads! Monochrome graphics! How did we deal!?).

Boxxle was a fun, but incredibly tough, game. You played a warehouse worker who had to position boxes around a room so they covered little dots. It was frustrating. It was a pretty great puzzler.

The thing is, when Boxxle came out people didn’t say it was for “casual gamers” (which existed as much then as they do today), or that it was some throwaway collection of puzzle mini-games. In fact, no one really made a peep. They either played it or they didn’t, and people were mature enough not to moan about graphics or crappy third party efforts or the fact that it was a puzzle game.

What the hell happened?


  1. Propaganda. People have forgotten how mighty the puzzle genre has always been. It’s great that everyone already loves Tetris, otherwise it’d probably be the lead whipping boy of casual games.

  2. So…is it a good game?

  3. Cory: it’s pretty devious for a puzzler, and as that’s the yardstick by which I measure my puzzle games, I would call it a good game.

    demographics. the Gameboy was still considered a niche machine (handheld) within a niche market (video games). There wasn’t much room to target different groups that bought different genres within the whole market.

    Since then, feedback & market research has improved, not to mention an explosion in market size. Now it’s incredibly possible to not only identify exactly who your game appeals to (as defined by a long list of criteria), but how, when and where to market it to exactly those people.

  4. Go back to the Startropics issue of Nintendo Power. Nintendo was already labeling puzzle games like this under the ‘All-Family’ name. It was probably because Nintendo was the only game in town at the time so there was no Sony or Microsoft to spread internet (I don’t think there was even internet yet) crap about Nintendo being for casual gamers. I think Microsoft has to feel the most jaded right now since they thought it was their turn to rule the console wars only to see the opportunity slip through their fingers thanks to the genious minds at Nintendo.

  5. I think it’s just long-time gamers struggling for a new identity; they fear and attack the unknown, aka an influx of Boxxle type games.

  6. Boxxle Knockoff?
    Don’t you mean a Sokoban clone? Boxxle itself is a knockoff.

  7. The game featured complex graphics for its time, and challenging gameplay (that was also fairly complex). Does not seem casual to me at all. These days, it is a little more casual because of the graphics factor. Remember that simple graphics add to the casual factor. Also the knock off may be way easier and not as complex as the gameboy title. These are all factors that overall define a casual game. I’ll say them again:

    Characteristics of a casual game:
    — Pick-up and Play
    — Simplistic Game play
    — Simplistic Graphics and Sound
    — Little challange

    So was Boxxle a casual title? It had some characteristics, but not enough to define it as a complete casual title. Not to mention there was no real standard of what a casual game was back then, because Nintendo hadn’t created this “revolution.” (Or however you wish to define the phenomenon.)

  8. @Tadashi

    that’s what I thought as well when I read this. lol

  9. @Jack
    How old were we back then? Was there internet? No. We weren’t ingrained into the games world as much as we are today. We were innocent and ignorant (in a positive sense). Now we are who we are. That’s what happened.

  10. … so… what’s the iPhone game called?

  11. Holy crap! I’ve been thinking about that game recently but couldn’t remember what it was called.

    I remember playing in on my friends Gameboy mono on a bus trip in school many years ago. Don’t think I’ve played it since but might have to give it another try.

    Think the version I played may have been called something different in Japanese but have just googled it and from the screenshots am sure its the same game – hurrah!

  12. What a complete crock.

    It wasn’t maturity or any other rubbish, the video game scene has always been filled with immature little snots who complain and bitch and argue over pointless garbage. The fact that there was no internet coupled with its relative obscurity mean that Boxxle was never really a candidate for controversy to begin with. Instead, you had all the idiots arguing over Genesis V SNES with meaningless buzzwords like BLAST PROCESSING ZOMG!

    The old N / Sega fanboy bitchfests put the current argumentative culture of the gaming scene to shame. We’re a little less propaganda based nowadays, at the very least.

    This article is nostalgic for a time that never existed.

  13. I thought there was internet, how else could the Nintendo BS work, or the flopy add-on for the NES that I believe had a modem on it. either that or the NES had a modem separate from its’ floppy disk add-on.

  14. “In fact, no one really made a peep. They either played it or they didn’t, and people were mature enough not to moan about graphics or crappy third party efforts or the fact that it was a puzzle game”

    Maybe no one was “moaning” was because there wasn’t a lack of good third party support for the Game Boy, and there were plenty of “core” games for it. It had nothing to do with “maturity”.

  15. “and people were MATURE enough not to moan about graphics or crappy third party efforts or the fact that it was a puzzle game.”

    Come on now, this sentence holds no logic in any way shape or form. Unless of course, you’re the type of person who finds it completely acceptable for United Airlines to loose you’re luggage every once in a while b/c after all, hiring additional employees is just too expensive.

  16. What happened then is exactly what crosses my mind whenever somebody complains about casual gaming. It’s not a new thing, and definitely not a bad thing. I suppose back then we were used to seeing more puzzle games and the like. With the past 10-15 years of gaming being more focused on the hardcore crowd, I suppose people just got used to it.

    Still, I don’t see a need for the furor over casual gaming. It’s not like there is no other outlet for hardcore gaming.

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