Art Style: Cubello WiiWare
Or: The Game That Made Me Love The Wii Again.
You or may not be aware that, back in 2006, Nintendo put out a series of mostly awesome games on the GBA, known as the bitGeneration series. Released only in Japan, and developed by the lovely men responsible for Chibi Robo!, they focused on innovative and finely-tuned gameplay concepts over flashy visuals, and quickly found a home in the hearts of dedicated gamers the world over. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, they sold bugger-all and quickly vanished into obscurity. However, Nintendo decided to revitalise the series anyway – this time via WiiWare, and with the name changed to ‘ArtStyle’. Which is great news, even if Nintendo seem to have absolutely no interest in publicising the fact. Probably because it doesn’t involve a collection of tedious minigames. Ooooh!
Anyway, listen up – the other ArtStyle games (Rotohex and Orbient) are really good. But Cubello is the one I’m choosing to review, and here’s why: because it’s actually the best puzzle game I have played since Tetris.
You start out with a rotating cube (the titular ‘cubello’) in the middle of the screen, and attached to that cube are a bunch of other cubes, of differing colours. Pointing your Wii remote at the screen and hitting ‘A’ fires a cube at the structure which it then sticks to, with the ‘clip’ on the left of the screen telling you what colour you’re going to fire next. Connect four cubes of the same colour, in any direction, and those cubes disappear. Make all of the cubes disappear, leaving only the cubello, and you’ve finished the level. So you just keep firing away, matching the colours until everything’s vanished. Easy, right?
If you want to succeed, especially in the later levels, you’ve got to be cleverer than that. You have to wait, and carefully watch the mass of rotating cubes, in the hope that it’ll reveal a spot that, if you can just slip the right coloured cube into it, will start a chain reaction and demolish half the level in one fell swoop. Not that these spots are easy to notice; given that you have no direct control of the structure’s rotation (although shooting a cube at it makes it spin away from the player, in the direction it was hit from), you find yourself having to take mental snapshots from different angles, and piece together the 3D model in your head. Doing this allows you to discern where the cubes of a certain colour are close to one another, and where your shot needs to go in order to destroy them. In time, you begin to appreciate each level not just as a 3D block-puzzle, but as a piece of architecture to be explored, studied for structural weak-points, and then reinterpreted each time you successfully remove some of the blocks.
Put simply, it gets really bloody hard.
And here’s another thing we like about Cubello: the fact that, in the process of creating a minimalistic but functional aesthetic for the game, skyp went ahead and made one of the nicest-looking Wii games ever. Yes, it’s plain as hell – but everything about it feels absolutely intentional. It might not be rammed with breathtaking particle effects and hi-res bump-mapped textures, but it’s got a style, man. The music’s nice, too – although the actual in-game music is a bit rubbish compared to the warm, synth-led tunes found on the menus, and it’s a shame there’s no way of listening to them while you’re actually playing.
Still, if I had to name the thing I personally love the most about Cubello, it’d be the fact that it actually got me using my Wii again on a regular basis, after I’d previously lost all interest in it. It’s the exact sort of game we expected there to be loads of when the Wii first reared its head – minimalistic in its presentation, but superbly designed, and perfectly suited to the Wii’s unique controller. And while it certainly won’t prompt a deluge of titles with a similar design philosophy – after all, there’s nowhere near as much money in games like this as there is in your average family-friendly party game – it still stands as a shining example of what developers should be doing with the Wii.
Oh, and did we mention it’ll only cost you a fiver?