Review: You, Me, and the Cubes (WiiWare)

Are these cubes worthy of Rubik, or just rubes?

Anticipation for this title has been somewhat high 'round these parts, thanks to some excellent first impressions by our own Sean Aaron. The only question was whether or not we would ever get our hands on it, but as of this week, we have. And so should you.

Brainchild of the mad genius Kenji Eno, You, Me, and the Cubes is a game of balance and physics. It's a puzzle game where the correct solution will change as you play it, forcing you to react to what you've done and to what's about to happen. It's a game of constant management and correction, and it's very, very good.

Each of the six levels contains six smaller stages, and each of those smaller stages features six individual puzzles to be solved. Solving a puzzle entails flinging pairs of Fallos (tiny little men and women) onto the floating shapes, without upsetting the shape's natural balance. Good luck with that, by the way.

Sometimes these puzzles are straightforward, with a single, perfect cube and an even number of Fallos to place. More frequently these puzzles only seem straightforward, and will reveal themselves to be more difficult to manage once the gravity is disturbed. And other times, of course, the puzzles will be complex, unwieldy, and plucked directly from the nightmares of psychopathic engineers.

As the game progresses, various types of cubes are introduced, each with different (usually detrimental) behaviors. These include rubber cubes, which can bounce your Fallos right into oblivion, cubes that cannot sustain more than a certain number of Fallos, and frozen cubes, upon which your Fallos' weight will not affect the structure's balance.

Knocking the structure slightly off-balance is not a problem, but tip it too far in any direction and the Fallos you've placed can slide screaming into nothingness. The structure rotates after each puzzle, and, when it does, sometimes even the Fallos you've placed successfully will tumble away (as some sinister music plays). You do not need your Fallos to survive this rotation in order to solve the stage, but you will have your number of total survivors displayed at the end of each level, and beating previous records provides good replay value.

The two-player co-op mode will also go some way toward extending the game's life, but it's not very different from the single-player mode. Instead of placing your Fallos in pairs, you will place one, and player two will place the other. It's fun, but unlikely to take much attention away from whatever multi-player games you already play with your friends.

This game gets very difficult quite quickly. While we welcomed such challenge here at Nintendo Life, it's worth pointing out to potential buyers. Don't expect to breeze through this one, and don't expect to be very happy when Pale Fallos appear and start bullying and shoving your perfectly-placed little people into the abyss.

As much fun as this game is, there are a few niggles that prevent it from getting full marks,specifically the controls. Fallos are "loaded" into the Wiimote via a couple of quick shakes, and are launched with a flick. While the flick didn't cause much trouble that we noticed, the shakes would fail to be recognized just often enough that it became a frustration.

This is unfortunate, because the pointer works extraordinarily well, considering that you're selecting points in three-dimensional space. The way in which this game accounts for depth is brilliant and intuitive. But each usage of this exceptional, accurate pointer system is book-ended by tacked-on, unreliable waggle features. There really should have been an option for push-button control, as the constant need to divert attention from the screen in the midst of action to shake the Wiimote at your side is a jarringly amateurish decision in what is otherwise a brilliantly polished game.

The camera, too, only rotates in one direction, and so if you want to move your perspective the other way, you'll have to roll the camera all the way around the cube to get there. In later levels, this unnecessary time-waster can result in lost Fallos, or even an expired timer.

Any other issues we might have had with this game are minor. A few more songs during play would have been nice (there are two), and the tutorial gets a bit chatty, but that's about it. The absence of better control options is the only significant shortcoming, so it's a shame that it's such a big one.

Conclusion

You, Me, and the Cubes is a great deal of logic-based, thoughtful fun, and its puzzles are appropriately satisfying to solve. Its design is an exercise in perfect, effective simplicity, and with only a few tweaks it would have slotted perfectly into the Art Style series. It's clean, it's simple, and it's understated in the best kind of way.