MR. BOX Un/Decided Game Studio or InDecision Game Studio or Glaxon Game Studio The Mr. Box Co. or something else. ios / Android
This is not a game review, because Mr. Box cannot be evaluated as a game. It is a video game performance, a prank, an editorial, or some kind of warning. Or maybe it is a game, Mr. Box’s programmers, if he has programmers, are clearly playing at something, generally whoever has the bad luck to download Mr. Box.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When you launch Mr. Box, there’s a series of splash screens for game studios I’ve never heard of, and then, on a black background, is the titular Mr. Box, a reddish pink cube, taking up about a tenth of the screen. I start tapping directions I want Mr. Box to go: nothing happens. I swipe left and right. Nothing. I tap Mr. Box himself several times. Mr. Box dies.
I restart, and now Mr. Box is all of the screen. There is a tiny black square where Mr. Box used to be. I tap the black square, it suddenly becomes two black squares in width. I tap it again and again, until I have one reddish pinkish Mr. Box and a mostly black screen. Mr. Box dies.
I restart, this time there are no splash screens and instead I’m greeted with the screen I guess I want, which is Mr. Box on his black background. And Mr. Box is moving, slowly, and I’m willing to swear to you that these are the tapped-out directions that I issued before. As he circles around indecisively, prompted by my frustrated finger-taps from earlier, two little Mr. Box-sized squares approach: they are smaller versions of the splash screens, and they appear to be aggressively stalking Mr. Box.
I begin finger-tapping in panic again, and indeed, once surrounded, letters splash across the screen:
MR. BOX WAS NEVER ALIVE
And then the little boxes converge on Larger Mr. Box, and Mr. Box dies.
I start all over again. No splash screens, just me and the Mr. Box. I tap, nothing happens. I place my finger on Mr. Box, and discover that the box is stuck to my finger.
With a few flicks, the speed with which I can move Mr. Box along his black background is intense, I might even say pleasurable, but soon he’s zipping along far too fast, so fast that he zips past his black background, through a city of the future, then through some kind of jungle environment, then into the ocean, where he’s nearly swallowed by a kraken. Mr. Box surfaces, flies through the air, then into space, then far into space, and then back to his black background. And then, possibly because he has traveled several million light years and is now ancient, Mr. Box Dies.
Mr. Box restarts, and then I see a picture of a person on the screen, and I soon realize that it’s not a picture, there’s video of a guy in glasses, roughly my age, staring at me, tapping on their screen. “Who are you?” he asks. For a moment I think it’s a Face Time call, but as I try to respond I realize that it’s a video designed to look just like Face Time. “Try playing it upside down!” he says before the call is cut off, and Mr. Box appears.
I turn the phone upside down. I get text messages that ask, “Are you free now? Can you talk? Are you hungry? Are you alone? What’s it like?” I attempt to reply to one of these messages, and then suddenly I’m sent to what I think is the Soundcloud app, and piped into my headphones is poetry by Ivor Cutler.
When I start the app again, Mr. Cube has taken a slightly darker, more sinister hue, and beneath him flashes the message: WHY DON’T YOU LIKE IVOR CUTLER?
Many more things have happened since then. I hesitate to bring them up in a public context, but I’lll summarize one of these incidents nude singing telegram misunderstanding and cat sitting arrangement. Don’t contemplate it. Also, numerous pizzas sent to my apartment, courtesy one Mr. Box.
I have stopped thinking of Mr. Box as an app or a game, I’m starting to understand him as some kind of trickster god who lives in my phone. I cannot appease him, I can only adapt to whatever mayhem he has improvised for me.
But Mr. Box, if you’re reading this, I’ve made more of an effort to appreciate Ivor Cutler and I have “liked” your facebook status, retweeted you, and I promise not to try to delete your app again. I’m very, very, very sorry about that. Even if you aren’t alive, your presence is certainly felt.
Evan Johnston is a written designed illustration in Twitter (@evn_johnston) and Brooklyn.
editor’s note: this post is part of our Sight Unseen series in which people review movies or other things they have NOT seen or read. Guidelines for submitting to Sight Unseen can be found here