First Impressions: Fantasic Cube

Hey, you got your Columns in my Quarth!

Fantasic Cube is very much an old-school puzzle game, but a decent one and more full-featured than most of the puzzlers we've seen lately.

There are three single player game modes on offer and two-way multiplayer either locally or over Wi-Fi connection with friends or random strangers.

The primary game mode is your typical Story Mode: the little witch girl who starred in the previous Fantasic game from Zoom returns, only this time she's on a space ship and some people are trying to mess her about so she has to go out in a little space fighter to fire cubes at them until they go away and leave her alone – at least that's what we gathered from the numerous cut scenes that precede every stage start and boss battle.

The playfield is almost identical to Konami's classic puzzle-shooter Quarth except that everything is 3D polygons and there's a slight isometric tilt to the camera which can sometimes make gaps between cubes hard to detect. You have a ship at the bottom of the screen and then a wall of cubes in front which slowly descend towards you. There's a red line above your ship; if the cubes cross it, it's GAME OVER. In order to clear the wall of cubes you fire your own, with a group of three or more like-coloured cubes disappearing. Creating chains is the name of the game: when you eliminate a group of cubes the ones from the sides move towards the centre to fill the gap. This can result in orphan cubes at the front; if there's a gap behind them they'll move backwards one space when shot by a like-coloured cube, though they'll stay in place otherwise.

Both Remote on its side and Classic Controllers are supported. Outside of the normal movement options and cube fire button, you have two buttons to toggle through the cube colours which are (L) and (R) on the Classic Controllers, but (1) and (B) on the Remote which is slightly awkward. As you clear cubes you build up Star Power; once maxed-out you can press a button to trigger "Galaxy Super Roulette." Depending upon which hole your ball drops in during this event you can eliminate one of the four possible cube colours, equip a single "rainbow" cube – which will destroy surrounding ones when fired, clear the front three rows or get a "Mystery" result.

Although you will be clearing lots of cubes, your goal isn't to clear all of them: you're actually trying to eliminate the middle one at the back row which has a robot in it who appears when you've dispatched about half of the stage. After clearing the precending stages in each world you'll face-off against an end boss who hides behind a wall of cubes chucking exploding ones in your direction which will slow you down. He keeps generating new rows periodically and you need to destroy all of them to drop his shield, then hit him with cubes before he regenerates the wall. Repeat until his health is gone, the cubes cross your line or you run out of time.

There's over a dozen worlds all told with fanciful names and appearances (world 2 looks like a meat joint right out of ]Bonk's Adventure) and an increasing number of stages. Your best score in each stage is recorded and you can replay any worlds you've previously unlocked. Once you're finished with Story Mode you can try one of the other two single player games: Chain Time Attak or Cube Time Attak. In Chain Time Attak the time limit (which is rarely a factor in Story Mode) runs down quite rapidly. Clearing cubes causes it to refill slightly, so to keep playing you need to build chains. In Cube Time Attak your clock runs down normally and you're simply trying to clear as many cubes as you can within the fixed time limit. In both cases there's a local leaderboard where your profile name is recorded along with your total time or number of cubes cleared, respectively.

Lastly, there's a local Battle Mode which frankly isn't much of a battle: players each have their own blocks to clear, but it's really more of a race. Whomever reaches and eliminates their enemy robo first wins (assuming the cubes don't cross their line). Battle Mode can be played over Wi-Fi Connection, though when we tried it no one was there for a random match - possibly due to the time difference.

Use of English is plentiful in the menus which makes this game a nice option for folk with import Wiis and should ease any localisation issues – assuming Zoom or anyone else plans to bring it to other territories. The story mode is cute (anyone who's played Puyo Puyo will feel right at home) and the gameplay is classic and fun so it's definitely worth checking out if you have the means to play it.

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