Standalone WiiWare Review: Cubello

Cubello welcomes you with speech evoking Speak and Spell or GORF (if you’re old enough to recall either); Stephen Hawking on caffeine otherwise. It’s a friendly welcome which sets the scene for what could be a 70s Russian sci-fi art film: who is this voice and who or what is a cubello?

A tutorial will help you understand the spinning geometric form that is the game. The cubello itself is a small transparent cube with a glowing blue center; attached to it are blocks of different colours. The game is broken up into stages: in the first stage these colours are a very pale blue, grey and black, but later stages explode with colour. The mysterious computerised voice tells you every colour as you launch it at the cube-encrusted cubello.

This is the core of the game: launch different coloured blocks from a magazine at the blocks attached to the Cubello with the goal being to remove all of them. By creating chains of four or more blocks they fall away like groups of ripened…blocks. This also prompts a pronouncement from the voice: if you eliminate multiple groupings in rapid succession, you may get to hear it say “awesome!” — a reward worth earning!

Sadly you do not have an infinite number of blocks; nor do shortcuts present themselves. Unlike other colour matching games like Actionloop, you cannot simply launch blocks that do not suit you off into space; place must be found for them in the existing structure. Your score is determined both by the length of time and number of turns (cube launches) taken to clear the Cubello of extraneous blocks. Note that there is no clock, however. The game is not about frenetic block collisions as with Tetris or Columns; in fact haste is likely to have a negative outcome as each launch which fails to cause blocks to be cleared brings the cubello closer to the screen. If it “touches” the screen you’ll lose blocks in your magazine and if your magazine empties it’s Game Over. Likewise you must be thrifty with your magazine of blocks as the only way to ensure more blocks fill your magazine is to clear groups from the cubello, so make those cube launches count!

This game requires a bit of patience; especially as you have no control over the slowly rotating cubello, except that each launch causes it to change rotation. A nice pulsation shows you where your cube launch will stick to the structure and this can be moved about with the pointer. Launching a cube requires a press of either A or B as you like. Spicing things up a bit is a Bonus Metre which consists of four squares each of which fill with different symbols when you clear a group of blocks. If all four symbols match you get “Bonus Time” where the normally void white space surrounding the cubello becomes black with pulsating lines of colour and your current block becomes the colour of one of the ones needing to be cleared. As Bonus time counts down the cubello comes faster towards the screen. If you only have a few blocks left you may actually clear it; if not keep launching until time counts down and you return to normal play.

Cubello is part of the Art Style series (similar to the Bit Generations series of games released for the Gameboy Advance in Japan) and the name is apt as the game has very clean, minimalist lines with an appealing look to it. The cubello rotation is very smooth and as mentioned earlier there are no shortcuts: if you clear a block with different coloured blocks branching off of it, rather than also dropping off into space they flow back towards the cubello at the core of the geometric structure they are part of in a smooth animated fashion (though if they form like groups of four in the process they will drop off as well).

It’s a nice game to look at and the lack of time limit means that you can appreciate it whilst looking for the next place to launch a block. Mathematicians should rejoice and puzzle fans have something different for a change that I think they will find just as engrossing as Tetris. For 600 points and little more space than an NES game you cannot go wrong. Twitchers need not apply.