Cubivore is the latest export from Japan that eschews genre and bucks trends. Developed by Saru Brunei, a studio headed by Miyamoto protÃ©gÃ© Gento Matsumoto, Cubivore is in the spirit of other highly conceptual games like Mister Mosquito and the PaRappa series, taking a lighthearted and highly abstracted view of reality and mixing it with gameplay to make a little something for those who are looking for a break from the norm. The goal of Cubivore is to become strong enough to defeat the Killer Cubivore, who, along with his cronies, has drained color from the wilderness to create "raw meat" to add to their bodies. The raw meat gives them strength and powers beyond those of the normal cubivores, but you are determined to rip it off their bodies and make it a part of you, so you can eventually return the wilderness to its former, colorful state.
Cubivore is in the spirit of other highly conceptual games like Mister Mosquito and the PaRappa series.
There are two ways to become a stronger cubivore: eating other cubivores and training. The eating portion of Cubivore is a fairly complex-sounding system, but the manual covers it well, and the game also teaches you as you play in addition to providing a helpful in-game glossary. Each cubivore has one to six limbs, each of which is one of five colors and is either pale, dark, or rage (the darkest). A cubivore can be one of five strength levels, based on whether it is all pale, a mixture of pale and dark, all dark, a mixture of different colored rage limbs, or all one color of rage limbs. Each of the five colors has certain strengths and weaknesses for how well it makes your cubivore attack, defend, run, jump, back up, or pounce on a target. By defeating a fellow cubivore and eating its limbs, you try to fill your own limbs with the right combination of colors to cause you to mutate, because in the world of Cubivore, the number of times you mutate is directly proportional to how many females you will attract. After you mate, you resume the game as one of the offspring you've created, with one more limb than you previously had, making you more powerful than before. Having lots of offspring gives you the chance to start out as one of the more powerful types for your new number of limbs, and you'll also be able to change back to that form at will in case you need to mutate to a weaker form.
There are training areas and bonus pickups scattered throughout the levels, which will let you build up your horns, scars, hump, and tongue. Your progress in these areas is passed on to your offspring after you mate and die. Horns and scars raise your offense and defense levels. Your hump determines how well you heal when you eat other animals or vegetation, and the stronger your tongue gets, the better chance you have of ripping off a cubivore's limb before you've knocked it unconscious, a maneuver called "eat-n-run."
While it is not overly difficult to get to the final battle, getting all 150 mutations in the game will be quite a challenge.
Getting as many mutations as possible is just as important as getting the more powerful mutations and training, not only because it attracts more females, but also because you must get 100 mutations before you can face off against the Killer Cubivore. Trying to get 100 mutations brings out the puzzle-solving element in the game--each level has been carefully populated with cubivores so that getting some mutations will be much harder than getting others. Each of your cubivore's limbs can contain one color, and eating a colored limb will cause your cubivore to lose the oldest color it's eaten, unless you have a limb without color. You can empty out the most recently colored limb by "making a doo" (thank you, Japan). Once you get more than two limbs, getting the right combination of colors to cause a new mutation requires a bit of planning. While it is not overly difficult to get to 100 mutations and get to the final battle, getting all 150 to get the bonus is quite a challenge.
Cubivore's main draw is actually the gameworld itself. An art critic would call it "a dissolution of form that emphasizes the primal" instead of saying "nearly everything is square- or cube-shaped." Both descriptions are apt, though. Nearly everything truly is square. The sun and moon are cubes, and even the ripples you make in the water as you walk across a creek are square. Each cubivore is just a collection of identically sized square tile limbs attached to a head. But it's incorrect to say that this game has bad graphics, as no doubt some will say. While the animal forms and the environments themselves are primitive, the look doesn't come off as amateurish, but rather as the style decision that it was.