I really enjoyed the Captain Toad mini-games in this year’s expanded Switch version of Super Mario 3D World; they gave my mind a welcome reprieve from the frustration of navigating the main adventure’s floaty, 3D platforming. I know Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker has long been a thing, and while I have yet to get around to playing it, Apple Arcade’s Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker scratches a similar itch, giving me platforming, action, and puzzling all wrapped in an adorable, Pixar-like aesthetic.
The first thing you’ll notice about developer Aquiris Game Studio’s Wonderbox is its obvious Zelda inspirations. More specifically, it recalls the familiar art design of 2019’s Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Many Zelda-isms are on display: life hearts, monster-filled dungeons with (very light) puzzling, a hookshot for faster traversal, the smashing of innocent barrels, and a chibi hero with a stubby sword. It’s easy to see Wonderbox as just another Zelda clone, but it’s much more than that.
Underneath the Zelda skin are systems reminiscent of the Captain Toad mini-games in 3D World and, strangely enough, Re-Logic’s wildly popular 2D Minecraft offspring Terraria. Each adventure takes place in a dioramic “box” you can rotate to find secrets, gear (you start every adventure with an empty inventory), and the Heart of Adventure, a glowing, encapsulated heart at the end of every journey that completes the mission.
The Treasure Tracker vibes come from the small-scale, densely-packed environments, littered with collectibles you find by rotating and zooming in and out of the box, avoiding environmental hazards along the way. It’s nothing too challenging or complicated, but the super-cute art style and simple controls make Wonderbox a joy to play.
It also has creation elements. The main menu’s “Discover” tab lets you play adventures made by other Wonderbox players. These run the gamut of challenging — I found one based around chess where you and a bunch of NPCs just haphazardly swing your weapons at charging enemy “chess” pieces — to silly — another required me to “dive” off a high cliff and fly through a tiny hole down below, all while dodging arrows. New “boxes” uploaded by other players appear regularly, so there’s always something new to see.
You, too, can make your own adventures. Building terrain is a simple matter of placing a myriad of blocks — grassy, frosty, sandy, etc. — on a floating grid, Minecraft– or Terraria-style. Add some villagers, enemies, coins, and a Heart of Adventure and you’ll have a unique journey to call your own. There seem to be no major limitations — other than, weirdly, creation’s only possible on iPad or iPhone, and not Apple TV — and you can upload your custom journeys for other Wonderbox players to check out. It’s a nice way to engage with the community after seeing what others are making.
There’s also online multiplayer, which lets you team up with up to three other people (friends or randoms) to embark on randomised journeys seeking out the Heart of Adventure. Cool addition, but I can’t say I got much from playing with randos. Maybe it’s more interesting with pals.
Needless to say, Wonderbox already has a lot of content on offer. There are four campaigns available to play at the start — each with a set number of “boxes” to complete — and new ones supposedly coming soon. And with so many player-created adventures, it feels like there’s always more to see. All told, Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker is an approachable RPG-lite that can be enjoyed by adults and children. There’s a lot to like here.
Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker is out now for Apple devices via Apple Arcade.