Nintendo 3DS finally got its first real system seller recently, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. And while that’s fantastic, at the end of the day it is a remake. We have yet to really receive that first must have original 3DS title. While ports and remakes populate the 3DS’ launch, gamers have only a few other titles to really look toward for new experiences. Cubic Ninja isn’t one of the most anticipated titles for the system, but is one of few titles specifically made for Nintendo 3DS. Coming from a small developer, we don’t expect AAA quality. But can this cubic adventure stand up to its $39.99 price point?
Cubic Ninja is a bit of an odd game in the fact that you don’t control the main character. Like Super Monkey Ball, the player is simply in charge of moving the playing field. The title uses the gyroscopic controls to simulate tilting the environment. The title takes place in a full 3D environment with three different layers of depth. You use your Nintendo 3DS as a window into the action. If you’re facing the system straight down to the ground, the Ninja will fall against the background of the level. Hold the 3DS toward the ceiling and the Ninja will fall toward the screen. And finally, if you hold the 3DS in front you, facing directly ahead, the ninja will react and fall to the walls of the room, making the title look more like a side-scroller.
Cubic Ninja takes a Portal-like room progression system, where players have to reach the exit in each room. They will have to dodge obstacles, in some cases by simply going around them, or, if the room has enough depth, you can move up and down from the background toward the screen to go above or below obstacles. It requires you to think three dimensionally in what feels like a 2D environment. What looks like a difficult situation could be as easy as hovering above, safely passing over the obstacles.
Cubic Ninja makes use of a variety of traps and mechanics, including instant death spikes, flamethrowers, floating enemies, electric fences and more. When looking at the raw number of objects that are in the stage, you will notice that you’ll be interacting with a lot of the same objects over and over again. But the title actually keeps gameplay fresh by using all of these tools in unique and different ways, even if no new elements are being added. Players also come across a handful of boss-fights, but they are relatively uninteresting.
While the gyroscopic controls are definitely entertaining to use, they aren’t fit for later challenges in the game. The controls are simply too imprecise and just make already hard tasks even harder. You can switch off gyroscopic controls, which early on feels almost like cheating, but towards the end you’ll be saving yourself a lot frustration by just using the circle pad. Unfortunately, gameplay only using the circle pad makes Cubic Ninja a bit dull.
It’s a fun game, but at the end of the day there isn’t much content. The single player mode can be beaten fairly quickly, followed by a few bonus levels. After that you can replay all the levels in a time trial mode for the best times, or you can tackle survival mode where you see how many stages you can go without dying. Considering how many titles in the 3DS’ small library are already running off the time trial formula for extended replay value, Cubic Ninja isn’t offering anything interesting in terms of re-playability.
The title also has its own level creator, which could have greatly extended the life for the title, but falls a bit flat. The level creator is limited, but at the same time it also encourages you to come up with creative ways to challenge the player only using a few tools, rather than just spamming enemies at their face. But confusing menus and a clunky control scheme makes what should be an entertaining experience, annoying. What really hits the nail on the coffin for the level creator is the lack of online sharing. Players can only share levels using QR codes, similar to that of sharing Miis on the platform. But unless you have some friends who really get into creating levels or find some sort of community support online, you probably won’t be getting many QR codes.
Cubic Ninja has a more simplistic art style. Almost all the objects in the world are cubes and the environment looks like a aperture science-like facility, with little to no distinctions between areas minus wall color and traps. Oddly enough, the title still falls prey to some minor slowdown, but nothing too terrible. Due to the game’s perspective, it can be difficult to tell where objects or enemies are in the 3D environment. You would think that would be fixed by the 3D effects. But due to the title’s focus on gyrscopic controls, the 3D will be turned off in most situations. If, or rather once, you decide to change over to the circle pad’s controls, where you can keep the 3DS stationary, you will be able to take advantage of a 3D effect. Unfortunately, it isn’t well done, making little to no improvements despite the multi-layered playing field. So even with the 3D effects on, don’t expect to be able to fully distinguish where enemy placements are.
Despite its flawed visuals, the title has an impressive soundtrack with a strange mixture of elevator and techno music with some Asian influences. It’s really strange… But for some reason, it just works.
Cubic Ninja is almost perfect… For a downloadable title. At the full price of $39.99, there’s simply not enough content here to really give a full recommendation. If you really dug Steel Diver, and Cubic Ninja sounds interesting in terms of gameplay, you’ll probably have a great time with Cubic Ninja. But otherwise, give it a rent, play through it, and then move on.
out of 10
- Entertaining gyroscopic controls
- Impressive level designs
- Unique, but fantastic soundtrack
- Short on content
- Poor level creator user interface
- No online level sharing
- Difficult determining what objects lie in what planes