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Cubivore Package Art


Video games have come a long way from the days of Pong. What began as a barroom novelty has expanded into one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world. With more creative power being poured into the production of games -- and technology that has risen to the task of realizing these visions -- many people argue that video games have become the newest art medium. Games like The Legend of Zelda and Shenmue are hailed by their fans as masterpieces, interactive works of art that achieve a vision no other medium could really hold.

When you play Cubivore, there's an undeniable feeling that its creators were trying to make an artistic statement with its simplified world and the themes portrayed. Greedy, colorless animals have eaten up the Wilderness that once made the world wild and colorful. It's up to you to bring Wilderness back to the world by eating and growing big enough to defeat the Killer Cubivore, the leader of the colorless animals. It's about a return to nature and primitive instincts. Of course, it wouldn't mean anything if it wasn't fun to play.

The most controversial aspect of Cubivore is, of course, its appearance. The designers went in a radical direction with the game's look and made everything out of cubes and squares. The beasts that roam the land have cube heads and bodies made out of flat square "meat flaps". Bushes and grass grow in decidedly square formations. Ponds are square, and little square ripples cross their surface as you skip across. And when you tear a huge chunk of flesh out of an opponent in passing, the resulting geyser of blood gushes with perpendicular angles. Textures are very simple; most objects simply get a flat color painted across them. These graphics hardly push the Game Cube to its limit, or even the Nintendo 64 (where the game was originally going to go). It looks like a blocky old Atari game brought into the third dimension.

Some people will be turned off by this design choice. Personally, I think it fits the game's theme beautifully. The story told here is about primitive instincts -- to hunt, to mate, and to survive. It's only fitting that the beasts inhabiting this world should look like primitive video game graphics. Although it certainly would have been a thrill to go hunting with more realistic creatures and environments, I can respect what's been done with the graphics here. After a while, it starts to grow on you.

The music is simplistic -- usually short piano or guitar riffs looped endlessly. It's nothing that will win any awards, but when punctuated by cries and battle noises that sound like they may be real animal samples, it provides an effective ambient mood as you prowl through the virtual jungles.

The game plays like an odd marriage between a linear adventure game and a life sim. You begin the game as a Piggy head with one limb: a square "meat flap" that you use like a leg to propel you along. You advance through a series of levels, trying to get from your starting point to the exit without ending up as lunch for any of the creatures you meet along the way. Occasionally, you'll need to find and gobble up all the "Wildabugs" in an area to proceed to the next area, but most stages are a simple walk down a straight path.

The battle system is the most important part of the game, and it's been handled well. Controls are elegantly simple: L is to target your prey, A is to pounce. Later on, you gain the ability to run with the R button and block with B. Though there aren't many combat options, the game captures the feel of a wildlife documentary. Your creature leaps and strikes with a graceful ease, making it feel like you're handling a live animal -- quite a trick to pull off with a creature made entirely of squares. Of course, there's an undeniable, visceral satisfaction when you've defeated a hostile creature and you can tear the meat from its body and devour it. Just going around hunting things is a lot of fun at first, and by the time you've grown sick of it, you'll find that a lot of battles can be avoided.

As you battle and gather tokens that litter the plains, you'll improve your vital statistics, giving you better hit points, attack power, defensive abilities, and so on. Eventually, you'll reach a boss. If you eat him, you'll gain the power of his Raw Meat. Not only will you gain a new ability, but you'll earn the right to seek a mate at one of the Mating Grounds that you'll find along the way. Your progeny will be born with an additional limb, giving it more opportunities to improve itself. When you've evolved as far as a Piggy can go, you'll begin the game again as a one-limbed Grizzly. When you've completed three such "laps", the game is over. In each lap, the world changes slightly, becoming a bit more difficult.

The only way you'll face the final boss, however, is if you can manage to prove your worth by becoming the King of 100 Cubivores, which means that you'll have to master cubivore evolution. The creatures you find in the game come in different colors -- red, yellow, blue, purple, and grey -- and different shades -- pale, dark, and rage. When you eat those creatures, your limbs take on the color of what you ate. If you can match up all of the correct colors of an animal on your limbs, you'll mutate into that animal, taking on its attributes and hunting patterns. Most of the strategy of the game comes from planning how you'll eat your way through the animals in each area so that you'll be strong enough for the fights with the level bosses. Hunting down all of the different forms isn't as long or boring as it could be; once you get the hang of the evolution system, you'll be able to get dozens of new forms from a single area.

As interesting as all of this is, Cubivore wouldn't be the same without the story, weak though it may be. Between levels, your animal checks in with you and tells you how it feels about life and the world around it. Many of these monologues are amusing, and some are philosophical, but it's interesting to watch how the tone changes as you get deeper into the game. As it continues to kill and grow, your creature slowly succumbs to the Wilderness all around it and becomes steadily more beastlike. It's a very nice touch.


Is Cubivore art? It depends on how you look at it. One thing is certain; this is a unique and entertaining game on a system that seems to be bogged down with ports and sequels. It's brief by today's standards -- finishing at 100% won't take a seasoned gamer longer than 15 hours -- but it's so addictive that you're likely to start a new game as soon as you've finished. It's a shame that Nintendo didn't bring this game to the U.S. themselves, but they don't seem to be in a position to be taking any risks like this these days, and that's sad.

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
Staff Profile | Email
"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"

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