Rubik's World


posted 1/12/2009 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
Ah, the Rubik’s Cube. That innocent little puzzle that almost every kid has owned, and subsequently gone crazy trying to solve. The twisting, turning 3X3 cube made of cubes can be more maddening to solve for the inexperienced than the perverse “spilled milk” all-white jigsaw puzzle. The Cube has inspired competitions between professional solvers, insane time record videos on Youtube, and the popular Kobayashi Maru solution of disassembling the Cube and putting the pieces back in order. The Rubik’s Cube has been a national phenomenon for several decades, so publisher Game Factory thought it would be a good idea to make a game based on the puzzle, and set developer Two Tribes to work making the games. Two Tribes developed two games based on the Cube, one for Wii and DS, and after pitting my gray matter against the DS game I tried my hand at the Wii version.

The Wii version clearly follows the direction of its DS brother—aside from some puzzle updates, control changes and graphical upgrades, the basic format and many of the puzzles are nearly identical. This brings along a lot of the weaknesses of the DS game, but there are a few changes that improve the overall experience.

Unfortunately, the rather haphazard presentation remains. The opening sequence, music and art style make it look like a kid game, but the actual interface, graphics and gameplay are pretty abstract. The menus and visuals are a bit livelier than the bland DS presentation, but you’re still dealing with graphics built mostly out of blocks. The game starts off talking about “cubies,” the little individual cubes that make up the larger Rubik’s Cube. At every opportunity the game makes it sound like these cubies are little animated creatures, but throughout the gameplay they are just colored cubes. There are a few puzzles where they move around, but they aren’t the cute little characters the game makes them out to be.

If you can get past the initial false advertising of the game’s theme you’ll find some decent puzzles. A couple of the puzzles are the same as the ones on the DS, while others have been modified, and a couple are brand new. I gave “switch” a try first, which is a play on Tetris. A grid of colored cubes is displayed, with you holding a single cube. You must swap your cube into the grid, and if you connect it to a group of the same color, all cubes of that color will disappear. On the Wii this mode is broken up into separate puzzle levels, instead of a constantly shifting grid like on the DS. This gives you more time to think about each problem.

“Guide” is similar to “color” and “roll” on DS, except that in this game you can only dictate the cubies’ direction. Most of these puzzles have you placing instruction tiles to alter a cubie’s direction or change its speed. The early levels of this puzzle were entertaining, but after a few stages they got too complicated for their own good. You can never tell how fast a cubie will go once it spawns or how many will spawn in the first place. “Guide” is a game of prediction and you can’t stop the cubies once you’ve set them going. Each puzzle only has one solution and the smallest mistake will ruin the whole thing. This gets exasperating on the harder levels, which require you to place several tiles in precise places and in the right order. Be prepared to retry these levels over and over again.

In “fit” you must gather cubies into small groups so that they fit into cutout shapes in a moving board. At times you must “smash” cubies into elongated shapes or rotate them, as the safe spot where they fit gets smaller and more irregular. This puzzle was particularly obscure and I failed a number of times before I even knew what to do. It didn’t help that after a few levels a time limit was added.

“View” was even more confusing. It gives you a transparent cube which you must fill with cubies, creating three separate views (usually two sides and the top) with only one a single arrangement of cubies. I can see how this mode might be fun for Rubik’s enthusiasts, as it shares many similarities to the standard Rubik’s Cube—juggling multiple sides at once and trying to get them all to correspond to one another.

“Deconstruct” is the least puzzle-oriented of the modes. It requires you to knock a certain color of cubie off of a tower, by firing neutral white cubies at them. You have a limited number of shots, and the harder puzzles require you to start a domino effect to hit cubies that are out of range or blocked. This is the only mode with a multiplayer option, and supports up to four players.

Rubik’s World adds a couple free-form modes for you to flex your creativity. “Compose” asks you to arrange simple tunes out of notes and several styles of music: percussion, synth, organ, piano, etc. This mode is virtually identical to the DS version, but I can understand that form follows function here. In “Create” you must stack cubies into roughly recognizable shapes, based on a prompt the game gives you like “build a tree” or “build a cloud.” An interesting side effect of these modes is that your creations will start to show up in the menus. The main menu will be more colorful as more cubies “come out” to play, and the tunes you compose will start to replace some of the incidental jingles.

No Rubik’s Cube game would be complete without the original puzzle, and the Wii title has four versions to solve. In addition to the Mini Cube (2x2x2), Standard (3x3x3) and Rubik’s Revenge (4x4x4), which featured in the DS game, the daunting 5x5x5 Professor Cube is also included, along with a tutorial that takes you through the basic steps of solving each Cube. The 3D cube displayed on the screen can be rotated with the Nunchuk stick, and the different sections can be slid and turned by grabbing them with the A button and gesturing with the remote. I was surprised to find that manipulating the on-screen cube was easier on Wii than on DS, but a couple of the DS game’s problems remain. The camera control is much better, but at times the game still rotated the sections contrary to my input. A hands-on approach will always be superior to solving a Rubik’s Cube on a screen.

Rubik’s World Wii feels just slightly more approachable than the DS game, but it still suffers from a highly abstract, minimalist interface. It’s not for kids, unless they’re particularly talented in math and abstract math puzzles. The puzzles are difficult to grasp and get ruthlessly unforgiving within a few levels, so most kids will probably get frustrated and drop the game. Rubik’s World is also a very visual game, and all the tutorials are in text so they aren’t very helpful. Lots of trial and error is required, sometimes just to figure out how a puzzle is played, much less solved. Visual tutorials would have made it easier to get into the individual minigames.

This also isn’t a puzzle game you play to relax, unlike like Game Factory’s Zenses series. The obscure cubie games will frustrate most people of above-average intelligence, and only the Mensa crowd will really groove on them. Basically, unless you love solving the original Rubik’s Cube, this game won’t do much for you except make you feel insecure about your intelligence. Even if you’re a Rubik’s Cube fanatic with a lot of experience, the disconnected controls might be annoying. At this point, I unfortunately must recommend you buy a real Rubik’s Cube over the game. Nothing compares to the tactile feel of working one of those puzzles, and while I appreciate Two Tribes trying to create some companion puzzles for the legendary Cube, it just doesn’t translate well to a console game.

Rubik’s World has the right idea, but counter-intuitive puzzles, less-than-helpful instructions and finicky controls make this game more aggravating than mind-bending.