Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Review: Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest
It seems that there are games for every system that everyone knows about and are simply essential games for owning that system. they are regarded by most as the best games for the system. Then there are games that no one has heard about, but can still be very enjoyable. Cubivore is the epitome of a hidden gem. It is made by Atlus, a company well-known for taking risks, much to the joy of their fans. Cubivore is a game you don't see everyday; it came way out of left field, and is a welcome surprise to Gamecube owners. So, what exactly is Cubivore, and why should you care?
In Cubivore, you control a small pig-like cube-shaped animal, which must eat food other animals to survive. It is a very weird gameplay style, but it works well. You have a health meter that is replenished by eating other animals, which adds a sense of tension to stay alive while playing. When you eat other animals, your animal mutates, usually resulting in the repositioning of the square "limbs" on its body. In later levels, it gives your animal certain statistical bonuses as well. You can eat different combinations of animals to fine-tune what characteristics and abilities you would like to have, which gives the game a good amount of depth when you want to get the most out of the game's gameplay system. At the start of some levels, if you defeated and ate the right material from the previous level's boss, your animal has the option to mate, and create offspring that is stronger, faster, and has an extra limb. The child's statistics are based off your decisions and eating habits of the previous level, and also affects what kind of offspring he can have as well. It is a very deep and fun-to-use system if you get the hang of it. You have to actually plan out your method of progression for some levels in order to survive. You can get through the first few levels pretty easily, but some of the later ones can give you a bit of a challenge to figure out the best plan of attack. All I can say is that Cubivore has one of the more unique and interesting set of gameplay concepts that I have seen. It is a real treat for those who want something out of the ordinary.
"I want to be alive. That was the first thought I ever had." This is the opening line in Cubivore, said by the main character, right after he is born. He is a small creature called a Piggy, that, in his initial state, looks more like a tadpole. You can become other species eventually through the course of the game via breeding, but this is always what you start out as. The story of the game is about a horde of animals called the "Colorless", which devour the wilderness of the land, and take away its color. They are lead by a large, fearsome colorless beast, called the Killer Cubivore, which is the strongest animal in the land, and the ultimate villain of the game. Similar to what I said in the Billy Hatcher review, there's not much to Cubivore's story, because the gameplay takes center stage. The sole driving force behind the main character's actions are survival instinct, which gives the player a mindset as such; ignoring all other impulses, and doing everything to stay alive. It's very interesting to see a game do this, as I haven't seen it done very well before. There is barely any story beyond the first cutscenes, so the player is mostly left to himself, which gives the player time to think about his surroundings, and fill in the blanks of what little story there is by themselves. It is a good use of isolation in a game, which leads me to think that Atlus put a bit more work into this aspect of the game that may be immediately apparent.
The soundtrack of Cubivore is surprisingly calm and relaxing. Most of the tracks are serene and soothing, which is in stark contrast to the weird vibe the game gives off [or maybe not, depending on how you look at it]. Despite this odd design choice, I liked the music in Cubivore. It isn't anything special, but it gets the job done. The sound effects are not much to write home about either. Overall, there's not much to the audio in this game, and I've run out of things to say about it. Sorry.
Not many people know this, but Cubivore, along with quite a few other Gamecube games, was originally an N64 game during development. The game was initially designed for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive, which failed due to a very late release, and few games. Thus, Cubivore was bumped up to be released on the Gamecube. While the game definitely looks better in its finished form than what was shown in early screenshots of the N64 version, it's not by much. The game, while sporting a very unique and interesting art style, doesn't do all it can do to make it stand out. I would have loved to have seen more varied landscapes, with better and more creative use of the 3D-cubist art style. Instead, most of the game takes place on bland, plain wetlands. It's nice for the first couple levels, but gets boring fast. I really think that Atlus could have made the graphics in Cubivore something astonishing and eye-popping, but it almost feels like they quit the idea halfway through. I think a Cubivore sequel that fixes these problems would be a far better game. As it stands, Cubivore's graphics just feel like a good idea that wasn't executed right. Oh, well. At least the game supports 480p; a noticeable change from the N64 version.
There's really not much else to Cubivore beyond the single-player campaign. There is no multiplayer mode, no minigames, or any other real extras to speak of. This is a real shame; a 4-player cubivore battle would have been cool. You could spend the first half of the match evolving your Cubivore how you like it, then the fighting taakes place in the second half, similar to the City Battles in Kirby Air Ride. I would have loved something like that, and it would make good use of the gameplay. Unfortunately, no such mode exists. Once again, a Cubivore sequel with this feature would rock. The game is currently priced at $13.00 at Gamestop. Not a fantastic deal, but not prohibitively expensive for a used Gamecube game. If you're interested, go buy it. I haven't seen this game around very much at all, so it might end up being one of the rarer games for the Gamecube. If you are a collector, you should keep an eye on this one.
Don't go into Cubivore expecting an action game that will knock your socks off, and that you will keep coming back to again and again. I admit it is a bit sub-par when compared to other hidden gem games, but it is still a fun and cool experience. I recommend Cubivore to anyone who wants something very different and out of the ordinary, and who is tired with other action games that all look the same. Cubivore isn't so much an Action RPG as it is a really advanced and brutal Tamagochi game. If that sounds interesting to you, then by all means, go and buy Cubivore. If not, you might want to see if you can still find it for rental; you'll still get a kick out of it.
This is Lisalover1, promising to review something better next time.