Cubic Ninja is perhaps the 3DS games I was worrying about. It tries to take full advantage of the 3D capabilities of the device, combined with the gyroscopic controls, and it does so fairly well. And still I am not too keen on it.
It’s not my sort of game, I have to admit Cubic Ninja is one of those puzzles you get in Christmas crackers, the little mazes with the ball bearings. You tilt the 3DS and your little ninja slides around the blocky maze in response. It all handles as expected, the more gentle the tilt, the slower you move. The slower you move, the less likely you are to careen into the spiky spikes of death, but the longer it will take you to navigate the labyrinth and, more often than not, you will want speed and accuracy to make it through doors or other timed hazards.
It works well, it really does. The gyroscopic controls work as advertised, and the addition of depth to the puzzles – some obstacles can only be traversed when you’re at the right depth, meaning you have to tilt the 3DS up and down as well as rotating it – helps add some… well, depth. The puzzles ease their way up in difficultly fairly well, and the only time you will really encounter control problems is when your brain gets its wires crossed on how holding the 3DS relates to the action on screen. Human error rather than a fault on the behalf of the control scheme.
The thing is, the 3DS is a portable console and, irritatingly, this is not a portable game. Consider playing this game on a bus – the embarrassment factor of having people watching your rotate your console around, hold it up above your head, pointing it at the ground, is just too high, not to mention the issues that would arise without perfectly stable surroundings. Sure, there’s an alternate control scheme that lets you tilt the world with the analogue disc, but its not nearly as fun or accurate. Like all these puzzles, the tactile nature of it is key.
But this is not my game. I’m not built for subtlety and finesse. I do not have steady hands. I don’t even have patience in any real degree. Cubic Ninja isn’t a particularly hard game, and the puzzles are usually easy enough to get to grips with without any sense of confusion, and yet still I am awful at it. In the same way I am terrible at all other forms of motion game, I suck at Cubic Ninja. I am not physically adroit in any sense, which is why I play videogames instead of sports. I just don’t have it in me to be competent at these games.
That does not mean, however, that it is a bad game, just that I am a bad player. The mazes suffer at times for being a little too zoomed in, but overall they are creative and fun. The inclusion of things like boss fights, that use similar physics to swing wrecking balls at large monsters, help to provide a much needed change in gameplay from time to time, assuming your brain can work its way around the physics involved. It has unlockable characters that respond differently, and special skills you can use to help you get past that One Damned Puzzle, but for the most part its deceptively old-school in its design, and that is perhaps to its benefit.
Cubic Ninja is one of the gimmick titles that Nintendo consoles attracts. To its credit, however, it uses that gimmick well, and doesn’t try to oversell it too hard. Unfortunately, it uses the gimmick that constantly reminds me what a cack-handed dunce I am.
When it’s all said and done, Cubic Ninja is a very old game with a very new face, and it wears that face rather well. You just might want to play it at home, is all. Unless you want to look like the crazy man on the bus, of course.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: 3DS Release Date: 24/06/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Cubic Ninja for review purposes by the publisher. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.