You are a thief, sneaking into a lavish mansion owned by a notorious puzzle lover. A great treasure reportedly lurks somewhere inside – but, before you have a chance of claiming it, what will you find standing in your way? Boxes. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of boxes. Well, and also a surprisingly deep story about the creation of artificial life and a mysterious being called “Aurora” attempting to understand her own identity. But mostly boxes.
Boxes: Lost Fragments is a puzzle game about, well, boxes. It features five chapters, each with four boxes to open and then a final end-of-chapter puzzle that involves putting everything you found inside the boxes to use. Along the way, you’ll read fragments of a story that reveal secrets about the identity and backstory of “Aurora,” a figure deeply connected to the mansion and its many puzzle boxes.
The game is created by Big Loop Studios, which previously released a number of puzzle/escape themed games, including Dreamcage Escape, Escape Machine City: Airborne, and most notably Doors: Paradox. Boxes shares a lot of DNA with Doors, having a similar art style, a story told in pieces as you journey through the game, and a focus on differently themed 3D puzzles that require a lot of hands-on, tactile gameplay to get to the secrets hiding behind (or, in the case of Boxes, inside) them.
Boxes is an excellent puzzle game. Each box is visually distinct and uniquely designed, so the game never feels repetitive even though all you are doing is opening boxes. I actually ended the game wishing there were more levels to complete, and would love to see an expansion or DLC someday. While there is some repetition of common puzzle types (such as the slide puzzle or the “connect two points by making an unbroken line” puzzle) the different design and changes in things like shape, color, and number of pieces made each one its own experience.
There was never a time when I felt like I was encountering too much of one type of puzzle. The variety is amazing – there’s keys to fit in locks, dials to turn, lights to redirect, symbols to match, and much, much more. Just to give a few examples of some of the most standout puzzles in the game, one level has you shooting a Minotaur in the back with a tiny crossbow, while another requires you to play a game of “Red Light, Green Light” by sliding a moving stone figure along a track while the light is green. Every hidden secret and bit of revealed treasure is a delight, and I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite or least favorite box (although the aforementioned Minotaur battle, with its Ancient Greek aesthetic, was definitely up there.)
Boxes genuinely makes you feel like you are completing an escape room or puzzle box through the screen – the 3D nature of each item and the fact that they can be flipped and rotated and examined from all angles creates a real feeling of tactile objects even though you are just playing a game. I love that you can’t just click to make things happen – you have to actually flip latches, rotate dials, and turn keys. It gives the game a feeling of realness to it that persists throughout each level.
The hint system is also very well-done. In the prologue, you obtain a mask that you can put on. While wearing the mask, the next puzzle you should focus on or object you should interact with is highlighted. This gives you a nudge forward without ever feeling like the game is truly holding your hand. Boxes also never penalizes you for using the hint system, which I loved; there were several times I had to don the mask because I had missed a small latch or button hidden on the side of an elaborate box. There is also the option to completely skip a puzzle should you not be able to or not want to solve it, and, once again, the game does not penalize you at all.
My only complaint is that, while you can reset a level, you cannot reset an individual puzzle. I would have loved that feature – there were a couple times I got a slide or symbol-matching puzzle so messed up that I really would have benefited from resetting it, but I instead just powered through and forged ahead because I was halfway through opening the box and didn’t want to start from the beginning. In one notable case, I actually got stuck on a “move the blocks around” puzzle to the point where it was in a completely unsolvable state, and I had no option but to go back to the beginning.
The story of Boxes is not the most elaborate, but it doesn’t need to be. You learn about Aurora and her creator through a series of plaques scattered throughout the levels, and there are also a few hints within the mansion itself, especially in the larger, more “escape room” like puzzle that concludes every chapter. Boxes is a solid puzzle game that doesn’t need to be bogged down with the world’s best story, but what is there is very fascinating and leads to an extremely satisfying ending.
Escape room and puzzle lovers should absolutely give Boxes: Lost Fragments a try (and Doors: Paradox as well – the two are actually currently available as a bundle on Steam). It’s a satisfying puzzler that really makes you feel like you are playing around with physical, mechanical puzzle boxes rather than just playing a video game. I could easily get lost in a game like this for hours and hours (and I did…) and definitely hope to see DLC, additional levels, or a full-on sequel in the future. Until then, happy unboxing!
Kate played Boxes: Lost Fragments on PC via Steam using a provided review code.