Standalone WiiWare Review: Fantasic Cube

Although on its surface Fantasic Cube resembles Konami’s arcade/MSX classic Quarth, it sadly fails to live up to that positive first impression. It’s not that it’s a bad game, but simply that it lacks the hook that a really good puzzle game needs to hold a gamer’s attention for any length of time and ensure repeat play.

Taking a page from Puyo Puyo in an attempt to compensate, there’s a few play modes on offer: a Story Mode with cute little cut scenes and boss fights, two attack modes where you’re trying to complete levels with the longest play time or clear the most cubes and a two player mode which can be played against AI, a local player or even online. Regardless of mode the gameplay is the same: a ship at the bottom of the screen fires coloured blocks into a downward rolling column of other coloured blocks which need to be cleared in classic “match 3” fashion in order to eliminate a cube containing an enemy robot in the last row.

As stated earlier, the mechanics work fine, though the isometric perspective can make it difficult to spot gaps between rows which can form during the course of clearing chains of cubes. You have a choice of controllers, but it’s all pretty straighforward: d-pad for left/right movement, a button to fire a cube and a button (or two depending on controller choice) to toggle between cube colours.

It’s the latter control that eliminates any of the tension you’d get in any other match three game of this type: the ability to select the colour means you can actively control the set-up of chains and you can clear the closest block to you – though at upper levels cubes appear which have a grey coating until an adjacent block is cleared. There’s also a “star power” gauge that can trigger a “Super Roulette Challenge” which will result in one colour of block being cleared in the visible part of the column, but this just makes the game easier than it already is; other than breaking up the tedium, it’s not clear why this extra bit was included.

The biggest problem in this game that the basic gameplay just isn’t that interesting: the target robot is devoid of character and doesn’t do anything besides rise up from the centre cube in the last row when you get close enough. In story mode the bosses are all different, but the fact that you have to slog through four identical levels to get to them makes the game far more of a chore than it should be: I could only motivate myself to play through half of the dozen or so worlds before pulling the plug.

Though the bosses themselves are different, the boss battles are all the same: the boss is at the top of the screen periodically generating new rows of cubes; you need to clear all of them and fire blocks directly at the boss in order to wear down their life bar. All the while they’ll be throwing explosive blocks at you which will stun you, meaning more rows of cubes to clear. This can actually get quite annoying in the more challenging boss fights as you can be close to eliminating the the last row only to get clobbered and have another three generated before you get control of your ship again.

I’d probably have a better opinion of this game if the story mode had been more like a boss rush without the standard play mode, reserving that for the challenges and multiplayer, but to be honest if you have a Japanese Wii you’re probably better off buying another match-3 game like Puzzle Bobble Wii and the excellent MSX port of Quarth instead.