Cubivore is a Forgotten Gem for the Gamecube

Anyone who enjoys quirky Japanese games will be won over by Cubivore's interesting gameplay and neo-retro presentation.

Cubivore takes place in a primordial world of dangerous swamps, jungles and mountains. The animals which populate this world prey on each other at every turn, and the only two actions in life are eating and mating. It may surprise you then, that Cubivore is such a cute and disarming game. All the creatures, and indeed the environment, down to the clouds, sun and moon, are based around cube or block shapes.

Animals, including your protagonist, are built around a central, unchanging block of a head, which trails tiles that act as legs, flippers, rolling pads, etc. Depending on the shape and number of the unfolded pads, animals can move around the terrain nearly any way they choose.

The way you get ahead in this game is by first eating your opponents - leaping forward and grabbing onto an animal's tile with your teeth, you shake the control stick to RIP it off, and your own character immediately grows a new tile. By choosing what color tile you lunge for / what color animal you stalk, you determine the color make-up of your own Cubivore, which causes you to mutate into new and complicated forms.

It's similar to the game Evo: The Quest for Eden for the SNES - an evolution based game where you consume opponents strategically to grow. There are well over a hundred possible forms for your Cubivore, so even after beating the game multiple times, you'll still be looking for every last mutation.

The localization has been described as strange by some, but I find it one of the best aspects of the game. Your animal recites a poem or short saying at the end of each area, often just before you reach The Mating Grounds - this is where you choose a mate and receive a large number of new mutations all at once (you continue as one of them, in the form of your child).

The poems are from a cute animal's point of view and are about eating foes and mating - really funny and well written. Between sections of the game, you transform from one basic type of animal into another - starting as a Pig, and progressing to Bird and Bear.

Strategy is involved, not only in choosing what kind of animals you consume, but in choosing your mate and choosing what kinds of color to discard as you try to find every possible combination of common and rare colors.

The game also contains a lot of secret areas - many of these areas are accessible only once during the course of a playthrough, and much of the enjoyment of the game comes from repeated playthroughs where you search for the right combinations of creatures to eat and form specific missing mutations.

As you reach the end you find fields where animals of rare colors run in herds - allowing you to pick and choose, but only for a limited time! There are also beach-side levels where you must hurry to eat rare animals before they run off into the surf and disappear.

I've played this game several times over the last few years, and while some criticize the simplistic graphics and sound, I find it suits the nature of the game very well. Cubivore is a charming game based around simple ideas, with great replay value for those who can enjoy its quirks.