We're often told that it’s not safe to judge a book by its cover. The adventures and perils that lie within those pages can often be very different than what is offered up by the image imprinted on a book's front, but we all do it anyway. Marketers and publishers know that we're drawn to book covers; it's the first thing that we see, and it's exactly what either holds our attention or immediately makes us pass right by. It's not safe to judge a book by its cover and it's not safe to judge a video game by its title, except when that title is particularly honest.
Cubit the Hardcore Platformer Robot is blatantly frank in its title, offering exactly what the name suggests. Taking on the role of Cubit, an adorable little robot with masochistic tendencies, your goal is to hop your way through six increasingly difficult stages. You are given an unlimited number of lives with a counter keeping track of your deaths on the bottom screen. Rather than following a more traditional linear path, the stages instead branch off from one another, not unlike the map in Find Mii II / StreetPass Quest II. Seeing all that the game has to offer requires multiple plays through, but once you’ve got a handle on the unchanging design of each stage, it's a quick enough experience that replaying doesn’t feel tedious.
This game revels in its simplicity; from the gameplay to the graphical style, it projects a crisp air of minimalism. Not unlike BIT.TRIP RUNNER's Commander Video, Cubit automatically darts forward, running on a collision course with every spiny enemy or bottomless pit that lies ahead. There's no way to stop and no way to attack, ensuring that all of your efforts are put into single-button jumps and praying to the high-heavens that you've timed your movements correctly. All of the directions on the D-Pad and the A, B, X, and Y buttons are mapped to the jump command, solidifying the fact that if jumping doesn't work, then all you can do is try jumping again.
Comprised of simple techno beats that expand and grow more intense as you progress, the soundtrack provides a catchy cacophony that is sure to get stuck in your head. While it’s not entirely accurate to call this a rhythm game, it is true that, again like any BIT.TRIP title, your movements can be timed with the music. Jumping on – and sometimes off – beat with the soundtrack tends to end with the best results, and timing double jumps to work effectively is also dependent on a certain rhythm, but Cubit is just as playable with the volume turned down completely. If you’re a fan of difficult platformers but you’re unable to keep even the simplest beats, worry not, as you’ll still be able to play through the six stages with patience and persistence.
Though Cubit may only contain six unique stages, it does offer up a host of extra features that do well to extend the game’s life. After completing the game once, you will then unlock Hardcore mode. The stages in this mode remain exactly the same, but you are challenged with completing all of them using only three lives. Beyond Hardcore mode there is also an achievement system featuring 24 Challenges to complete and five additional unlockable characters beyond your standard adorable robot.
The simple character and environmental designs work well for this title, but the presentation is not without its hiccups. Certain areas tend to lag a little bit, and turning on the console's 3D effect definitely drops the frame rate and hinders the game's otherwise smooth animation, but none of this is even remotely game breaking. Some players scrutinizing this one under their proverbial microscope will be turned off by the finicky display, but most will be too focused on landing their jumps and not pitching their 3DS at the wall to even notice.
Cubit the Hardcore Platformer Robot is an honestly titled game that delivers a charming and fun, albeit frustratingly difficult, experience. The campaign may be short but this is the type of game that focuses more on high scores, and the inclusion of unlockables and an achievement system help to extend the playtime quite a bit. If you’re a fan of challenging platformers in the same vein as the BIT.TRIP RUNNER games, then this is one that you should consider giving a download. If, however, you have a tendency to get frustrated and throw your 3DS when the going gets tough, you might instead want to consider saving your console from certain doom.