While it’s possible to feel like a square peg in a round hole, Cubers: Arena puts players in the role of a round ball in a square world. Pretty much everything you see, every character excepting the players, is made up of cubes. Cube shaped dragons, cube shaped pigs, and even a very blocky minotaur.
Cubers: Arena is something of a mixed bag, with the amount of enjoyment you get from it being directly related to what you’re expectations are. If you’re expecting a challenging and deep single-player experience, this is not the game you’re looking for. In fact, playing it this way is likely to ‘break’ the game. This is because how effective you are in combat is very much tied to whatever gear you have, and to get good enough gear can mean there’s a certain amount of repeated grinding, which can quickly get frustrating.
Local 2-player co-op, on the other hand, is where Cubers: Arena shines. With a couple of rowdy young players, or a parent and child playing, this game would be a hoot. Not only is there the standard battle mode, which, as you might guess from the game’s title, involves defeating waves of enemies in an arena, there are also multiple arcade-style modes. These include ‘Whack-a-mole’ (rush around trying to be the one to whack the most number of moles before the time runs out), ‘wrestling’ (where players try to push their opponent out of a ring, ‘Dodge-ball’ (try and hit your opponent with balls you can throw, catch, or launch as meteors), as well as a survival mode, defend-the-princess, and, of course, sparring. Each of these modes is perfectly accessible to total newcomers to gaming, and while there are a raft of special abilities on cool-down timers and you can try to dodge, block and time all your attacks or actions perfectly, button-mashing is also a perfectly viable option. In fact, in the matches I played, a complete newbie button mashing proved to be more effective than my precision-based approach. Also, matches are kept deliberately short, and at most last only a few minutes. While players used to something like Sekiro will probably not find anything here, for younger players intent on just having fun with their friend, this is perfectly fine.
This is in large part due to the colourful, cartoon-like graphics, which impart the game with the charm of things like the early Mario Kart 64 and Pokémon. Each successful attack is indicated with a flash of light, and special abilities range from simply slamming the ground, to summoning flaming meteors to pulverize your foes. And there’s something undeniably entertaining about watching players send baddies flying across the screen with all the wild abandon of mad cricket-players let loose in a ball-pit.
Best played with a controller, preferably two controllers, Cubers: Arena is a visually compelling, fun game ideal for younger kids, or for parents to play with their children. ■