Candy Box Review: The Sweetest Thing

I just finished a great browser-based game, but you have to play it a little to understand what’s so great about it. So go do that right now, and come back.

Candy Box !

I know what you’re thinking. “WTF is this?” Your screen probably looked like this:

candybox_throw

If you’ve been eating and throwing candies for 10 minutes now, you’re doing it wrong.

I got the same reaction from a bunch of people. All I can say is click on that link up top, and wait. If you still don’t see any magic, learn the definition of “wait.”

(No peeking. Play!)

So your screen should look like this now:

candybox_merchant

He’s a lollipop pimp, for goodness’ sake. How cool is that?!

So begins what I consider to be one of the coolest games I’ve played in a long while and all because of its complexity craftily hidden by simplicity. I’ve been hooked on this game. After you realize the key to the game (ahem, waiting), the merchant eventually offers you a sword, and so begins your journey into a fun RPG with so many quirks and surprises that you become completely addicted.

Although Candy Box doesn’t offer a deep story, I find myself hesitant to reveal too much because every new layer it adds on is an interesting surprise. Still, this is a feature, so let me tease you with promises of upgradeable weaponry, potions, magic scrolls, a giant dragon, the Devil himself, and a humble reference to the epic battle with Shadow Link. In this game, eating millions of candies doesn’t give you diabetes; instead, it makes you stronger.

candybox_frog

Oh, and this guy.

But strength alone isn’t enough to get through Candy Box. After clearing a handful of levels, you realize that you need to explore the other features, such as your inventory with maps to other places, your lollipop farm which requires dutiful investment, and learning to answer silly riddles. Despite the sometimes questionable localization (the developer is French), it’s important to read all descriptions and directions carefully to figure out how to get ahead.

Levels simply consist of your player character automatically moving from left to right across a handful of screens. When you encounter an enemy, its statistics show up on the screen, and each second represents an effort from both of you to kill each other. That’s it. There is no music, no cutscenes, no fanfare at all. Most enemies, save for a few, are represented by three-character abbreviations of their names, and you don’t even see weapons and magic in play. Yet you create your own drama. The first time you fail a level, the punishment being a few minutes of cooldown, you feel so defiant that such a simple little game bested you that you will devote needless time investing more candy and lollipops and effort to move on.

I will not let a pile of text defeat me!

I will not let a pile of text defeat me!

One of the other key features of Candy Box is how conducive its mechanics are towards playing while at work. (Pass judgment on me as you will.) The fact is that you need to wait to accrue candy and lollipops to buy items and build your character. Instead of traditional RPG grinding, where you battle enemies mindlessly until you are leveled enough to get ahead, you only need to wait. Candy Box is just a browser game powered by Javascript. Open a tab on your web browser, load it up (it features a very simple saving and loading mechanism), and do your work. By the time you have a lull in your duties, you will have amassed enough of something to move on. But don’t forget to tell your coworkers to play it, so you all can get in trouble together.

Candy Box is completely free. Despite the features it shares in common with F2P games on Facebook and iTunes, you’re never given the option to pay for progress. You and everyone else are on the same playing field and need to wait and strategize. The only necessity you’re at risk of losing is time, and that’s entirely up to you particularly because it’s not a game that even needs you to monitor it. Instead, I will tell you that if you want something fun and quirky to play at work (or at home) with a surprising level of depth and intrigue, play Candy Box. You’ll be hungry for more when you’re done.

Or keep throwing candy on the ground and complaining. I won’t stop you.

candybox_full

Let me know when your screen looks like this.

Rating: ★★★★½

Posted on by Gil Almogi in Features, PC, PC Reviews, Reviews

About Gil Almogi

Gil is a video game enthusiast and professional meanderer. When he's not giving people his unsolicited grammar corrections, he is out and about seeking exciting food and even more exciting single-player experiences. He's got one of them Twitters (@gilmeansjoy) and a blog or something (fromthebacklog.blogspot.com).

  • http://twitter.com/MaryKateClark Marykate Clark

    =-D Those nasty goblins never stood a chance!
    If only I could use my Castle Crashers Lollipop Sword…

  • Machaira

    I’d have to say that a game that gives you options to do something with no other hints and then penalizes you for using them is badly designed. While it might get good after a couple of hours of doing nothing or very little, how many people would never get to that point because they’re doing what the game offers them to do with no clue that they’re doing the wrong thing?

  • Gil Almogi

    I think of it as another form of difficulty, but instead of trying to kill you, it tests your patience for 60 seconds. And after discovering the merchant, you’re compelled to wait a little longer to see what that nets you, and then the magic happens. Because of it’s text-based design, I’d compare it to Zork, which really depends on your imagination to figure out how to make progress.

    It’s obviously not for everybody, and it leads to RPG conventions that people who don’t enjoy the genre won’t appreciate. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a game like this that will be passed along by word of mouth and that friends will give you hints about.

  • http://www.levidsmith.com/ Levi D. Smith

    Nice ASCII artwork. Really takes me back to the days of playing L.O.R.D. and Trade Wars 2002 on BBSes.