From the development team at Red Mount Media and their publishers JanduSoft is a new entry into the pad bitingly frustrating platformer genre. It’s a genre that’s a bit niche, I’ll grant you, but with the likes of Super Meat Boy hogging the limelight, it’s quite a popular one. What we have here though is another game, another opportunity to die in a variety of hideous ways. The question is, do you dare come with me to a world of retro, pixel art sprites, devious traps and extremely difficult level layouts as we attempt to recover The Lost Cube?
As the title alludes to, the village we live in used to have a cube, but alas, no longer. It is in this village that we, as the games’ protagonist, find ourselves somewhere in Northern Europe. But honestly, that isn’t really important. What is important is that everyday, a special melody is played upon a magic guitar, and this brings prosperity to the land, making all things well. One day, however, the forces of evil steal a magical red cube that holds some kind of power, and so a brave soul must venture out into the world to recover it. We, as Ulrik, a somewhat ordinary guy armed only with a guitar, must try and recover The Lost Cube, using only the power of music and interpretive dance. Actually, I made that up, you have to go out into the world, armed only with the power of jumping.
The world that we have to make our way through is hostile, to say the least. Each level is loaded as a separate entity, with platforms to jump about onto, spikes to avoid and various things to collect, such as plectrums and guitar strings. Now, the objective of our adventure is to make our way to a certain point, which will open a portal elsewhere, that we then have to make our way to in order to escape. Oh, and just to add a little bit of spice, there are collectibles present too, however if we do manage to snag one but then subsequently die before we escape, when we restart the level we have to pick it up again. There’s no mollycoddling with The Lost Cube.
For the first few levels at least, we don’t have anything to worry about, except a set of big nasty spikes, positioned in just the wrong places for us to have an easy run. “No problem!”, I’m sure you’re thinking, “With the power of Ulrik’s double jump we’ll soon clear those pesky spikes and be back home for tea and biscuits”.
Well, yes and no.
Clearing spikes soon becomes second nature, but the issue arises when you have to start making very precise jumps. You see, whether it’s the world that is icy, or whether the bottom of Ulrik’s shoes have had grease applied, he seems to slide a little whenever he lands from a jump. When you are trying to make a pixel perfect leap, that slide is usually the difference between success and a pitiful spike-based death. Another issue is Ulrik’s ability to wall jump. The ability itself is not the issue, but rather the dismount that is where problems arise. You see, as you have to keep the stick pressed towards the wall as you ascend, when you want to jump off, you have to jump and then move the stick in the direction you want to go. Unfortunately it is annoyingly imprecise, leading to either Ulrik falling short or taking a hit with another bloody death in the spikes. Other than the fact the controls don’t seem up to the job, the rest of The Lost Cube seems to follow this exact pattern. However, as you go, you will meet new and different dangers, such as angry Vikings and, weirdly, laser beams. Just what you expect to find in a medieval looking forest.
The presentation of things is very retro indeed, with Ulrik basically being comprised of a pile of pixels; albeit one with a deal of personality. The levels and enemies are also suitably retro, with a real minimalist vibe overruling the game. You’ll find that the majority of The Lost Cube is played out in silence, which adds to the atmosphere, with only the “twang” as you pick up a string or plectrum to break the quiet. Of course, with no music to hide behind, the pathetic squelch as Ulrik meets his doom – again and again and again – sounds even more heartbreaking. And make no mistake, die you will – in fact I’d not be surprised if you nabbed the achievement for dying 100 times on about the sixth level. It’s much more like Dark Souls than Super Mario, let’s put it that way!
All in all, if you are a masochist and dislike folk made out of pixels, then The Lost Cube on Xbox is the perfect game for you. If however you are just looking to play video games to relax, maybe this isn’t the title you should be spending time with. It’s a frustrating experience that just grows as you watch Ulrik slide off the edge of a tiny moving platform time and time again, although strangely it does still manage to bring about a slight urge to keep playing. As long as you know when to step away – for the sake of your Xbox controller if not for yourself – you’ll be fine here.