By John Walker on February 2nd, 2012 at 3:04 pm.
I hope to goodness that I need write nothing more than, “harmonising three-headed dog” to convince you to play Cuboy: Back To The Cubeture Era II. That, or perhaps that one of the cutscenes is a montage sequence made from a series of crayon-drawn pictures accompanied by a song about making something from wood. For me, learning that Zeus wears a Yankees cap and says things like, “Sup ya’ll, I’m Zeus, god of lightnin’, pimpin’ and phat ass beats,” is a special treat. His flow gets all the ladies, and haters can go to Hades. This is the game in which you trim Atlas’s armpit hair. Here’s Wot I Think.
That’s pretty much how it goes, here. With a British angle on the opaque and brilliant humour of the likes of Aqua Team Hunger Force, this is a packed two-to-three hour adventure with dozens of characters, a pile of minigames, and constant nonsense.
That’s the best sort of nonsense. This is a sequel to a game Quintin celebrated back in 2010, which I confess I have not played. But see, I’m going to now.
I partly enjoyed that anything translating over from the original was missing for me, as it made the whole thing even more strange. But your plot here is Cuboy, a cube-shaped man in a cube-shaped world, chasing after an evil cube-shaped cat (which I’m sure is racist – I just can’t figure out against which race) who has stolen his time machine, and plans to take over all of ancient Cubathens. By helping out the locals, and getting muddled in the affairs of the cube-shaped gods, you are charged with overthrowing the evil kitty and returning to your own time.
Which makes it sound like it makes far too much sense. Because although much of the game is based on traditional adventure themes – inventory puzzles, picking the correct path through conversations, using X on Y – the practice is so much more gloriously silly. Trading weapons with the weapons merchant, for instance, requires finding the worst weapon imaginable. A sword? Pah, no use. A toothpick? Now you’re talking! Want a rare item? You’re going to need to give the fishmonger a bath. Need an asthma inhaler? Well, there’s always murdering a child.
What I love most here, and I’ve absolutely loved most here, are the details. Frinstance:
Banter: The game is heavily conversation led, and the voice acting is just brilliant. It took me a few moments to stop hearing Cuboy as that strange man who takes hardware out of boxes on his sofa, but soon his incessant self-assured cheeriness won me over entirely, and indeed I do believe Cuboy to be my ultimate friend. In fact, the man responsible for Cuboy’s voice, the game’s writer Andrew Dennis, also provides those of sixteen others, and does a great job of it. Nine others chip in other voices, and there’s not a dud amongst them. But best of all, I’ve found, is when leaving the game running in another tab anyone on screen will occasionally throw in a line or two. The weapons merchant has just growled “I bloody love weapons, I do” as I wrote the last sentence. Also, Hades likes to tell me about how chocolate makes “my (echo) BOWELS ACHE”. Details, see.
Music: It’s gorgeous. There’s a reason why they’re selling CDs of the soundtrack – bright, silly, and remarkably tolerable to listen to on loop when you’re distracted by a Twitter argument. And here again, there are so many little details, tiny voices saying nonsense, clever tweaks, and so on.
The Cubes: Yes, admittedly everything is made of cubes these days, but don’t forget that Cuboy first appeared toward the end of 2010, before the indie world went square-crazy. And here the animation is just so superb. Each new scene falls in from above, slotting into place, while the cuboid inhabitants come in three parts, which provides some really adorable animations. The top section sliding backward is a remarkably effective means of showing surprised disgust, for instance.
As you play you gather costumes, which you can then mix and match on Cuboy for your own pointless entertainment, although occasionally they’re needed as you play. You can’t sneak into a palace unless you’re dressed as a ninja, and you obviously can’t enter Hades unless you look like a skellington. I’ve never quite understood gaming’s fanaticism for playing dress-up, but it’s certainly amusing to combine a tree costume with a gladiator’s and some mouse ears.
Then alongside all this, there are a bundle of minigames, some designed to look and play like 8-bit frivolities, with surfing, spearing and flying up cliffs all offering simple-enough challenges that don’t get in the way. There’s a neat multiplayer (against NPCs) capture the flag minigame too, along with some fun at-sea boat battling. And all contain great jokes too.
The result is one of the most fun, funniest games I’ve played in a while, with so many great and quotable lines (“Sword! Sword! Sword! Sword! I want a sword to take home and sword things with.”), and an overall air of well deserved confidence in itself. Play it. It’s free. It’s here.