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DSi  header logo

Art Style: KUBOS

For: DSi

Falling down

Product: Art Style: KUBOS | Developer: Skip Ltd | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DSi | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Art Style: KUBOS DSi, thumbnail 1
When it comes to the latest game in Nintendo download-only Art Style series, there's no question it's an interesting concept.

Based around an isometric 5 x 5 grid, you control a generic stickman who you move around with your D-pad.

The game starts on a flat one block high playing field but before too long other blocks start to fall out of the sky. Your first requirement is to avoid getting crushed: a situation that's aided as the shadows of the falling blocks are displayed. They get larger the nearer the blocks are, so you can judge whether you can sneak through before being flattened. You can also rotate the playing area using the DSi's left and right shoulder buttons to get a better view.

Just avoiding stuff doesn't make for much of a game however. Your goal is to rack up points by walking over a complete rows of five blocks, lighting them up in the process. The twist is that they have to be all on the same level, which is something that gets increasingly difficult as those blocks continue to fall higgledy-piggledy.

You can create some kind of order by holding down the B button and using your stickman to either push a single block forwards into a gap, or dragging them backwards. This is harder than it seems though as in most cases the topology of the block stacks means it's not possible to create neat level lines.

Another option are the black pulsing bomb cubes. Once one's fallen down, if you stand on it - which defuses it - you'll gain a Cube Blast power which enables you to shove all the cubes in front of you off the playing area. Neatly through, in the process they will drop down into any available gaps.

But if you don't defuse the bomb, after a couple of seconds it will explode, destroying everything in a 3 x 3 area around it. Oh, and just to keep you further on your toes, after every ten seconds or so, the bottom layer of blocks will fall away into the abyss, taking you with them if you're not on higher ground.

The final limiting element of KUBOS is your character's energy. Move him around too much and he'll start to get tired and move really slowly, which isn't very helpful when blocks are falling all around. The only way to re-vitalise him are the colourful energy cubes which must be stood on to refill your energy meter. These are occasional visitors though, so once you've run out of energy, you're just a dead man walking, albeit very slowly.

As you can probably tell from this description, Art Style: KUBOS is fairly challenging and not particularly rewarding.

Your level of enjoyment isn't helped much by the regular lapses in control you'll experience as you climb over a block you were trying to push into a space because you didn't press and hold the B button at quite the right time. More fundamental is that even with the ability to rotate the level, you often can't see if the spot you're walking to is going to receive a falling block in the next second because it's in a gap and hence you can't see the shadow no matter how much you rotate.

In these ways KUBOS can quickly become a frustrating experience.

Still, if you can struggle through the first mode, which requires you to successfully make your way up 10 levels of block-dropping hell, you will open up additional modes. The Tower mode offers you an endless 3 x 3 grid to play on, and if you can light up all nine blocks on this level, you'll get your energy replenished. Ironically, there's also a Relax mode, which is a gallery of your achievement animations. By that stage, you will need to relax.

Yet, as seems increasingly to be the case with the Art Style releases, KUBOS ends up another example of an elegant idea presented in a neat graphical form and with cool electro-music but that isn't implemented sufficiently well to fulfill its gameplay potential.

A dropping block worth avoiding then.
Art Style: KUBOS
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 18 July 2009
It's a fresh idea but somehow the block dropping antics of Art Style: KUBOS don't live up to its potential
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