In Cubic Ninja, you guide a quadrate warrior through a series of increasingly hostile levels by tilting the 3DS. Gliding down twisted corridors is as effortless as it is novel, and there's an undeniable joy in winding your way through a particularly nasty stretch unscathed. But that thrill quickly dissipates once the difficulty ramps up; later levels demand a degree of precision that is maddeningly high considering the limited controls, and the game's strong reliance on unseen traps turns your free-floating fun into an arduous series of trial-and-error failures. Cubic Ninja's inconsistent level design hampers much of the appeal of this motion-control adventure.
Kill the puppy!
A cubic ninja doesn't have much reason to exist without a princess to rescue. The story setup is one you've heard a thousand times before, but it's worth paying attention to thanks to its air of irreverence. Tongue-in-cheek jokes are sprinkled throughout the scrolling words that introduce each new section, and they provide enough charm to put a smile on your face. In the early going, you'll smile at the joyful action sequences as well. Cubic Ninja strips away any direct control of the protagonist and replaces it with a system that requires you to tilt the entire 3DS to get him to move. As you turn the handheld console on its side, upside down, backwards, forwards, and every which way, you may look like a monkey trying to wrap your head around this fancy technology, but that doesn't detract from the fun one bit. Scooting through narrow paths at top speeds delivers a freeing feeling that's akin to whooshing through a zero-g space station, and empowering introductory levels make you believe there is a wealth of possibilities on the horizon.
Unfortunately, the only thing on the horizon is your unavoidable death. Stages are constructed in a "gotcha!" manner that makes dying a frequent occurrence and quickly squashes the exuberant fun from the early going. Flaming pillars wait for you at the bottom of long tunnels, enemies hide behind walls, and the slight delay when you tilt the system makes it incredibly difficult to avoid these traps unless you know of their existence ahead of time. In some levels, you can mitigate this problem by moving at a snail's pace, provided your hands are steady enough to pull off such a feat, but this option is not always present. Buttons open paths to locked sections, and you need to rush through with reckless abandon to make it before your path is barred. Or maybe a collection of spiked balls and flaming pillars line the path, forcing you to sprint through when an opportunity presents itself. And if you do, there's often an unseen enemy or spike pit waiting to kill you. It's a frustrating system that punishes both patience and daring.