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With downloadable games like Shadow Complex and Fat Princess getting a lot more attention from gamers looking for fresh experiences, You, Me and the Cubes couldn’t have picked a better time to appear. The brainchild of renegade game designer Kenji Eno (known primarily for his avant-garde Dreamcast titles D and Enemy Zero), You, Me and the Cubes (YMC) marks his return to game design after an almost 10 year hiatus.
At its core, YMC is a puzzle game that requires quick thinking and a little dexterity. As with most WiiWare titles, YMC forgoes complicated control schemes and keeps it simple. Players shake the Wiimote to create a “Fallos,” a small humanoid creature that comes in both boy and girl styles. Once you’re ready, you fling the Wiimote and throw the Fallos onto the titular cube. The cube then starts to wobble as the Fallos’ weight knocks the cube off its axis; it’s your job to keep the cube stable so the Fallos don’t slip off into the abyss below. Each level has a time limit and a quota for the number of Fallos you have to fit on the cubes, so the game quickly becomes a literal balancing act of getting lots of Fallos on the cubes before time runs out, or before they start slipping off.
What makes the game interesting is that once the Fallos are on the cube, you have no control over them; they’ll wander around, fall down and help each other if they can. For the most part, they won’t intentionally knock the cube off balance, but if a Fallos is about to slip off, a friend rushing to help him may actually imbalance the cube further and make the situation worse. This element of randomness makes the game a lot less predictable and ramps up the replay factor. Later levels introduce cubes with special properties and enemy Fallos that you’ll need to outwit if you want to keep your cubes stable and your Fallos alive. Much like a game of Jenga, the game starts off simple enough, but when things start to go wrong, they tend to quickly spiral out of control. Once the cubes get wildly off balance, the Fallos quickly start staggering and falling off as your time limit drops and the cube tilts even further out of control.
While the game’s single player campaign is challenging, YMC really shines in its local multiplayer. Players throw individual Fallos, and must work together to balance the stack of cubes. Multiplayer has a feature called synchro throw that rewards the players for simultaneously hurling their Fallos onto the cube. Time it right, and the little guys will stick to the cube and be invulnerable to slipping off for a few moments, which can be a huge help. The game also monitors your individual performance; so while you’ll have to work together to clear the levels, you’ll ultimately be competing against one another for a better score.
YMC sports a very simple but appealing visual design, similar to the old PlayStation puzzler Intelligent Qube. Kenji Eno has spent a lot of his career designing sound and music for games and the appealing tracks in YMC reflect that. The warm, minimal electronic soundtrack is laced with synthesizers and fits the game perfectly.
There’s definitely a sensation of guilt watching the Fallos slide off the cube after desperately clinging onto the edge for dear life. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself waking up in a cold sweat, haunted by the tortured screams of the little guys plummeting into an endless void. Imagine their parents waiting by the front door at 3am, worriedly scanning the horizon for any sign of their lost little son or daughter. You did this.
You, Me and the Cubes will be available for download from the Wii Shop Channel this Monday, September 21st.
Sep 17, 2009