Publisher: Ninja Egg
Developer: Ninja Egg
Don't call it a comeback, they've been here for years! And by they I mean puzzle games. In fact, recently it seems that puzzle games have become even more popular and prevalent than when they originated. The game market is full of puzzle type games, from platforming puzzlers like Inside to exploration puzzlers like The Witness, these games are here and here in a big way. There are some difficult ones out there, there are some easy ones and there is everything in-between. What wasn't there was a game so difficult it made you stop and walk away from the TV for a while and ponder the life decisions you had made. Kyub has kindly stepped in to fill that void in your life.
Please do not misunderstand me, Kyub is one of the most fun and addicting games I have played this year, but oh LORD is it difficult. It is a fine blend of puzzles and action. You have to move through the world of the cube, going from a starting point to a fixed end and avoiding bombs, lasers and pitalls all along the way. This is accomplished with a good bit of planning and a healthy dose of winging it and reacting along the way. The best laid plans will quickly get you killed if you aren't able to adapt and change with the land as you move. Kyub does not hold your hand in any way, you get about 2 levels (of 80) to learn the mechanics and then you are off.
Death comes quickly and frequently, but it is not unforgiving. Checkpoints are plentiful and dying can end up being more of an inconvenience than a real punishment, but inconvenience me 32 times in 5 minutes and it starts to feel punishing. I am an avid puzzle gamer and someone who relishes a challenge and Kyub gave me both in a big way. At first glance the bright colors, upbeat music and cartoonish obstacles lull you into a false sense of security. “How hard can this game really be?” you will find yourself asking. Hard. Real hard is the answer to that question. Kyub is never difficult just for the sake of being difficult however. Every puzzle has a solution and every level is beatable if you just don't give up. Here is where my problem was. I would allot a certain amount of time to myself to play before bed at night, but constantly found myself pushing for just ONE more level. Then one after that, then pretty soon it's 2 am and my wife is coming downstairs wondering where I am. It really is an addicting experience, and one that can deliver countless hours of new gameplay to dedicated puzzlers.
Aesthetically, Kyub is beautiful. The colors are bright and the landscape is well designed, with high attention given to detail even in such a cartoonish setting. Typically a game like this will cut corners when it comes to the visuals, but Kyub goes the extra mile to really make everything pop. The soundtrack could be left out; it remains the same throughout the game and really adds nothing to the experience after the first few levels. I found myself listening to my own music over the games soundtrack pretty soon into my journey.
The control scheme is very simple. You can use either the joysticks or the D-pad to control the cube, moving him one rotation at a time. The D-Pad is what I strongly recommend, as it gives you much more control than the thumb sticks and prevents you from overshooting your goal which more often than not will spell disaster. The camera is “fixed”, but fixed in 4 positions which you cycle through with the bumpers. This is something you must do as you operate in this 3-D game space to keep from losing sight of your cube. Kyub also has its own set of collectable stars that you acquire throughout the game as you progress. In addition to being a collectable, a certain number of stars are needed to continue progressing past certain points and open up new levels. This not only incentivizes you go collect them as you go, it gives you a reason to go back and replay level 6 when you are on level 21 to get that one pesky star you missed. This keeps the game fresh and gets you replaying levels you may not have thought to come back to.
Kyub is unique, beautiful and mind-numbingly difficult at times. It combines all of the elements that make a puzzle game work and maximizes on them in every way. It is an intelligent game with character and gets its hooks in you early and doesn't let go. If you are in any way a fan of this genre it is a must have and one that you will find yourself coming back to all year. Take a deep breath and understand that this is not some 2 hour breeze, this is a game that will take some time to complete but the payoff is completely worth it.