At a Glance:
Genre(s): Point and Click/Item-Based/Adventure
Warnings: Off-color humor, adult themes, small Hitler reference
Control scheme: Mouse with [space] bar for certain interactions
Piano-man Songs: 2 (If you’re willing to brave a searing desert for the second)
The Set Up:
Criminal kitty arch-villain Esquire Padrino is at it again! With his Time-Warper, the feline felon could upset everything which is why you, the angularly gifted Cuboy, must set out to stop him. Only you are too late as your furry nemesis slips into the time machine (which curiously looks like a cardboard box with “Time Warper” written on it inexpertly with a marker or large crayon of some sort), traveling back into the past and inadvertently taking you along with.
As play commences, you find yourself stuck in a rustic town of the Old West, complete with one cell Sherriff office and Saloon equipped with batwing doors. You’ll have to talk to the locals and solve puzzles if you want to find and stop Padrino, and (far more important) escape this hell-hole of a place that these barbarians seem to call “home.”
The Low Down:
There are many places where Back to the Cubeture is an unmitigated success, nay, a triumph, and there are aspects of the game that are something of a let down. The most obvious thing that strikes you about Back to the Cubeture as the title and main character might suggest, is the cubecentric visuals laid out in an isometric fashion.
In the past, I have been firmly opposed to the usage of isometric layouts. In over twenty years of gaming, I simply haven’t seen more than a handful of decent games done in isometrics, while the vast majority tend to be confusing failures. On paper isometric might look fine, but time and again putting theory into practice results in catastrophic effects. But here in Back to the Cubeture, the isometric foundation supports the cubic presentation which gives the game much of its personality. The graphics may look simple, but watching them in action is a treat, and the way they are used, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, for sight gags and visual cues is highly effective. Further, the designers here had enough sense to keep things small enough to be encompassed by an isometric field of play, but also kept things uncluttered enough so that everything doesn’t get in the way of everything else. In short, if this is what isometric perspective can offer in a game, I thoroughly approve.
If the brilliantly executed visuals give Back to the Cubeture a large portion of its personality, it’s the comedic dialog that provides the rest. At once Cuboy’s adventure is self-effacing and self-aggrandizing, switching wonderfully back and forth between expertly deadpan to whimsical. There seems to be a joke lurking behind every corner, and most of them are well played. Be warned, though, while there are no naughty words (that I’ve found anyway), there are some naughty subjects. Far from the most offensive game out there, there will still be those with tender sensibilities that may object to some of the subject matter. Also, I don’t suggest playing this one with the kiddies unless you want to explain what “Ladies of the Night” are, with all the lovely fun questions that go along with that.
Where Back to the Cubeture falls way short, though, is in gameplay. The adventure elements are rudimentary to the near extreme with puzzles that really aren’t puzzles at all. Granted, sometimes it’s nice to play an adventure game that doesn’t put the thumbscrews to the gray matter, but this one doesn’t even offer the equivalent of a serious glare. Meanwhile the “action” sequences are one-button games of the worst sort; quick draw and tap the [space] bar as fast as you can until a, b, or c happens. We’ve played one-button games that boast surprising amounts of depth and require various levels of skill. None of the offerings found in Back to the Cubeture qualify. And, to make matters worse, Cuboy plods… slowly. This is not typically a problem until you get to the desert portion of the game and you find yourself getting up to make a sandwich as you wait for Cuboy to plod his way from one screen to the next.
In summation, it’s clear that the game in Back to the Cubeture is not the end, but instead the means to an end. It is what you are required to do as the team behind the title show off their visuals and wit. Happily, the visuals and wit go an awful long way to make this an enjoyable if short experience.