The premise of Kyub is a simple one. Get dropped into ever increasingly difficult isometric stages and take your Kyub from one end of the level to the other; as fast as you can, without dying too much and ensuring you pick up some collectable stars in the process.
Doesn’t sound too difficult eh?
At first look, Kyub comes across as a delightful little game, with nothing less than brilliantly sharp visuals, an easy to use control scheme and a soundtrack that takes you deep into the oriental world in which it is set. But it isn’t long before you start to get further into the action and, well, without beating around the bush, your mind will be frazzled, fried and then put through the wringer in multiple ways as Kyub attempts to put an end to your suffering. Unless you’re some crazed puzzle fiend that is, and then the utterly devious puzzles that have been included may just be to your liking. The problem is, I’m not too sure how many gamers it’ll really appeal to.
Kyub takes you on an adventure through the four seasons, which play host to its 80 odd levels. Kicking things off in the Summer, you’ll start the initial stage and be left to figure things out. Thankfully it’s all simple stuff and rolling your square block up, down, left and right is all you initially need worry about. Making your way to the other end of the stage is easy and you’ll gladly find yourself mopping up a number of collectable stars in the process. But continue on through and you’ll come across laser beams, bombs, traps and triggers that all need to be avoided, pressed or run from. Throw in moving platforms and a viewpoint that doesn’t exactly lend itself to simplicity and that’s where Kyub starts to get hard. Real hard.
The inclusion of verticality to the horizontal dimensions adds in a huge mind blitzer, as do the mechanics which see your face buttons triggering magnetic blocks, allowing your Kyub to climb high into the sky, round corners of doom and into the deepest, darkest depths of what Ninja Egg can create. Although nothing is ever really that dark with Kyub because the colourful visuals are brilliant and well worked.
Controls are simple to begin with, but very quickly become complex. Not only do you constantly need to be flipping the isometric levels through all angles with your bumpers, but picking up and grabbing other blocks, some that occasionally come equipped with lasers or extra buttons of their own, brings another maddeningly frustrating addition. Throw in the face buttons which need pressing in sequence – and rather swiftly – to help you navigate your way round various evilly designed pathways, and you’ll quickly see how complex things get.
Whilst each stage is unbelievably beautiful in its design (seriously, I could sit and drool over it all day), yet again the sheer complexities that come in each of the levels lend themselves to utter despair. Yes, you can zoom in and out on various locations, but without the camera moving itself to show your position, the various elements of each stage become a burden. At times, it’s too tricky to understand, not only where you need to go next, but exactly what you need to do when you get there and on numerous occasions I’ve had to cross my fingers and take a blind leap of faith into the unknown. You can probably guess how that plays out.
Thankfully, numerous checkpoints are well positioned to stop the need for too much going over the same old ground. Even then, when you’re given a gold par time of just a few minutes, and after numerous attempts at a level are still coming in with at least 10 or 15 times that required, you know something is slightly wrong.
Progression through Kyub works well – or at least it does if you can get your head around the mind bending puzzles that are in place. Each time you complete a specific stage, you’ll find a number of further ones are unlocked, giving more opportunity to collect extra stars, which in turn unlock even further ‘Seasons’ and stages.
Now, ideally we would see the completion of each individual stage unlocking the next, and the next and so on until we find ourselves hammering through the entirety of Kyub. If I’m being honest, I think that’s the way I would like to see things run as well as I’m not a great one for going over the same thing time and time again in order to collect stuff. But that’s what Kyub has us doing should we wish to unlock each of the seasons. In fact, with just Summer open from the start, you’ll need to gather up at least 16 stars in order to unlock the goodies found in Autumn, with a ton more needed should you wish to escape through to the Winter and Spring. Unfortunately, my skills aren’t in a place which will allow everything to be open and free. Judging by the online worldwide leaderboards, there are very few others who are either. In fact, whilst I understand the game has only been available for a little while, there is currently zero data available for the Spring sessions, showing that no-one in the world has managed to make their way through that far. A measly two people hold a record in the Winter levels and they’ve only actually set times for the first two of the 20 available. It gets slightly better when we come to look at the action in Autumn, but not by an awful lot.
Why am I telling you this? Well, perhaps it’s my way of saying that Kyub is too damn hard to really enjoy. Or perhaps it’s just my way of telling myself that I’m not actually as useless as it’s made me out to be. Perhaps I’m just an average Joe when it comes to tackling the latest puzzler to hit Xbox One? Whatever it is, it all points to Kyub being less than ideal in the accessibility stakes.
… and then we get to the price and I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a sore subject for many. Whilst there is no debating Kyub holds enough content to take over your life for a good while, with the massive draw of time beating and secret collecting bringing even more hours once the campaign is done, I’m concerned that many will find the £15.99 price tag too much to bear. And they should be concerned, because when you weigh Kyub up against all manner of other titles on the market, it’s probably a little too pricey for anyone to just take a chance in the hope that it delivers. Instead you’re probably only likely to find those who frequent puzzlers on a daily basis who are happy to spend that kind of money.
If you do decide that you’re happy to test your sanity levels, then the chance to hop back through any of the unlocked stuff in order to beat your previous times (or that of your friends), pick up some extra stars that were missed the first time round, or attempt to complete each stage in as few rolls as possible, then the option is there. Personally, I believe you’d need the patience of a saint and the stubbornness of a mule just to even consider the latter though.
I’ve had some great fun messing around with the puzzles found in Kyub, but I’ve also been left tearing my hair out in a way I’ve not seen for a very long time. I can’t fault the visuals or the audio, and what I’ve managed to understand has brought some massive moments of enjoyment, but unless you’re in it for the long haul, and really want to test your brain in ways other games don’t, then you may struggle to find any real long term enthusiasm. In fact, as far as brain taxers go, this is right up there with some of the hardest.
It’s far from simple. No matter what you may first think.
Related: Lets Play Kyub on Xbox One!