Puzzle games are making a comeback, they say. People want a challenge, they say. Well Kyub is both a puzzle game and challenging. From the outside, Kyub looks like child’s play, with its bright cartoon-style setting and simple theme. But looks can be deceiving.
You play as the Kyub, a cube with some very special abilities. Unlike your average cube, you can move around; quite handy in a game where your objective is to go from A to B. The problem is that between you and said point B are a great number of traps and obstacles, ranging from bombs to laser beams. But these obstacles aren’t the only challenges that you will face. Even the landscape can become a hindrance, obscuring your view at crucial times.
The first real difficulty that you face – on the very first level – is actually moving the Kyub. Movement is theoretically very simple; all you can do is move left, right, forwards and backwards. Sounds easy enough, but the direction that is forward in this isometric world changes depending on which way your view is facing. Using the right stick changes the view, you can cycle round a full 360 degree axis. Changing your view changes which way is forward for you- so it’s very easy to move in the wrong direction and meet your demise. This is especially true at first. The developer has added a handy pink arrow that indicates which way is forward but this can still take a little bit of getting used to. We found that using the D-pad was much easier than trying to use the left analogue stick.
Once you’ve mastered the art of movement then the first few levels won’t pose too much of a problem, but there are many more to go. Very quickly, you will be confronted by spikes that you must avoid. Some can be removed by finding and pressing buttons. Next up, there are bombs for you to detonate (and then dodge the resulting explosion), and laser beams that you just have to plain avoid. But again, things are only just getting started.
The difficulty very quickly escalates and you have to start making decisions on which path to take. Sometimes the route may not seem obvious and all paths can look blocked. But don’t worry, using such forces as magnetism you can manipulate your environment to get around the impossible.
All of this problem-solving can take a lot of time and thought. There will be a lot of trial and error, and remembering the courses is key to figuring out each level. This is one way that Kyub has immense replayability. You are timed for each level so there is always that feeling that you can do better, and you’ll always want to try again to beat your best time. Each level has a par time and then a gold medal time. If you are going to grab either of those medals you’re going to have to be super-smooth, not only beating the set times but dying as infrequently as possible. This is harder than it looks.
And, of course, we reach the point in our review when we talk about collectable stars – a videogame trope as common as white guy protagonists voiced by Troy Baker. Oh those pesky stars. But, you know, gotta collect ’em all! (Hoping that was subtly different enough not to get sued by Big N). You’ll need to use the environment cleverly to avoid been fried by laser beams, or endure a perilous climb to collect that shiny goodness.
All of this is wrapped up in a world that is bright and lovely to look at. All of the colours of the rainbow are used here to create a beautiful blocky world. The backgrounds and blocks themselves give you a feeling of being in a child’s imagination, and it is both wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
One of the biggest downsides to Kyub is the music. Upbeat and lively, it’s a perfect addition to the game at first, but repetition means it starts to grate quite quickly. It can be easily ignored when things are going well, but when your world starts to fall apart it’s just something else to add to your frustration.
Kyub is a game that can be frustrating – anger inducing, even – but as fans of the puzzle genre can attest, this is where the pleasure lies. At times you may want to throw your controller around the room, you may scream that the next time you get killed by those spikes the Xbox is going off (or out the window). But this will be only false anger, fleeting emotion, and with each restart you’ll hunker down, try harder, and keep playing. Kyub is a game that will keep you up at night, and it’s a game that will definitely make you have just one more go.
One more go, until four in the morning.
Kyub releases on 13 July and is available from the Xbox Store for pre-order and pre-download. RRP is £15.99 but preorder and you can save 25%, picking the game up for just £11.99 (limited time offer.)