KYUB is a rather unique game in the puzzle genre. Breathing new life into said genre, with its quirky game play, and fetching graphical style. There is a very challenging game here however, so don’t be fooled by the cute and colourful graphics you are greeted with, and certainly do not show complacency, as you will be punished again and again.
As with all puzzle games, the basis of each of the 80 levels across 4 worlds, is to make it from point A to point B, which in theory sounds easy enough, but transferring theory in practice is a whole new ball game. Well, cube anyway. You control a KYUB, which is a cube that you will need the master the use of to solve the fiendishly hard puzzles set out in the world before you. World 1 is Summer, and the first half a dozen levels or so, gently ease you into the game, and lull you into a false sense of security with the simplistic nature they present. Then, without warning, the difficulty curve goes vertical. True to typical Japanese developer fashion, Ninja Egg have not held back with KYUB, and what you will get is a brutal, and sometimes sadistic game, that will make you use them ninja reflexes and make you memorise the path through each and every puzzle. There is more than just falls that await you in the world of KYUB, eagerly waiting for you to make a mistake. Lasers for static, or moveable block, explosives in the form of landmines, and even the obligatory spike blocks make an appearance.
The satisfaction you get from completing a level will spur you on to achieve an improved par time, and fewer deaths for each level. I would say no deaths, but given how frequently you will meet your demise, a no death run will be a moment to share with friends and brag about. Thankfully, before you make your first move in a level, the timer is inactive, allowing you to plan the start of a level as best you can. There are static blocks that you can move, by lining up you KYUB next to said block, pressing your right trigger to attach yourself, and move the block around the level, to activate switches, create platforms and if the have a laser protruding from them, destroy obstacles littering the path ahead. In some levels, you will see coloured letters dotting the level. These correspond to the letters on your Xbox control pad, and once approached, you need to press the letters in the order that you wish to advance. But don’t dawdle, as if you hang about too long planning your next move, you will fall off, and if there are spike blocks below, a pointy death awaits you.
The game mechanics are simple, intuitive and easy to learn.The analog stick or D-Pad will control movement and the opposite stick will rotate the camera to one of four viewpoints. Use of the D-Pad is far more reliable to use for movement in my experience. Speaking of the camera, your viewpoint is of the isometric variety, and can sometimes be a nuisance. By that, I mean that on some levels, you will have instances whereby your view of your KYUB is obscured by landscape. Sure you can see your KYUB through the landscape, but that is all. You have an outline visible when hiding and there is no indication of whether you’re about to continue along the path or drop of the map. You can also zoom out to give a better impression of the world around you, but there are only two settings for this. A sliding scale would have been preferred, or a camera that allows you full control, allowing you to plan your journey ahead. That being said, it’s not a terrible experience, but one that could be improved slightly.
Graphics are bright, and full of colour. With each world being represented by a season of the year. You start off in Summer, and you will be presented by a lot of green shades, and bright sunlight. Autumn will be the following world, and golden Autumn oranges and browns will wash over the levels, will sunlight being lower in the sky. The background is full of little plots of floating land, waterfalls and random NPC’s, playing musical instruments, and fishing. Ninja Egg have certainly fleshed out the world around you as well as in front of you. The square blocks that make up the land you traverse, reminded me of what Minecraft would be like if it was taken away from its sandbox world and merged with a puzzle game. Possibly the only way you could compare these games together.
The music struck me with an oriental theme, that varies between a laid back and relaxed attitude, to an upbeat tempo that almost transforms into a dance track. Suiting the game, and keeping the rage from building up as you fail for the umpteenth time. Not often you are presented with an Oriental track as you navigate some tricky puzzles, and the audible senses will be pleased.
There are 4 items that get tracked in-game for each and every level. Moves taken, death count, time and stars collected. To achieve the best ranking for a level, there are 2 pre-requisites that count from the list. Death count and time taken. To be awarded said best ranking, and earn that red and yellow flag, you will need zero deaths. No easy feat for some of these levels. Then a set time imposed on you by some very cruel people at Ninja Egg. Usually within 3 minutes. The next ranking, a dual shade of blue flag, will allow you up to 5 deaths, and a couple of minutes extra. This game will certainly appeal to a speed runner, and present a fair challenge to achieve a top ranking for each of the 80+ levels on offer. What about the stars I hear you ask? Levels are unlocked by earning stars, which are cleverly hidden throughout the levels. You can also use your stars to unlock new skins for your KYUB from the in-game shop. Your tally does not reduce however, just as long as you have collected the required amount to unlock the next skin or level.
KYUB offers up plenty of hours of gaming time, especially if you are of the hardcore gamer persuasion and decide to collecting every star, completing every level under par time and with no deaths. Don’t be put off by the difficulty curve, or even the price. What you get is a lot of bang for your buck. KYUB will draw you in with its gorgeous colours, easy to learn game play, and a mix of ambient and upbeat tempo, Oriental music, which by the way is rather good.
Addictive is an appropriate word to describe this unique puzzler, and no other Indie puzzle game has dragged me in to the same extent, and made me go back and repeatedly fail the same obstacle until I find a way pass, as KYUB has done. Sure the difficulty spike can be a bit much for a casual gamer, and this may not appeal to some. But KYUB is worth a purchase, not only to support a talented developer, but challenging yourself and using that brain to solve devilish levels also, filling you with a sense of achievement, and spurring you on to accepting the mind bending challenge that awaits you in the following level. To give you an idea of how bad you may do, like me, Level 1-16 has a par time of 2:40 and no deaths for the best ranking. I clocked in with a time of 59:51 and 71 deaths. That’s right, almost an hour of torturing myself, but enjoying it nonetheless.
To finish my review, I ask you not to be put off by anything, and give KYUB a place of its own in your collection. There is a tough journey ahead of you for sure, but one that should be embraced like a loved one. I followed this game from when it was a press demo, and have been eagerly awaiting its release. In no way have I been disappointed, and will continue to take too long and die a lot through the 80+ levels on offer. I can’t comment about achievements for the hunters out there, except for the 3 easy achievements I unlocked. Needless to say, they are guaranteed to be brutal and only the best will unlock every single one. But ignore how hard they may be and enjoy the world of KYUB created by Ninja Egg with a lot of care and love. You will not regret it.
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