Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest, Gamecube

Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest is a misunderstood game and there can be little wonder as to why. It plays like a cultural anthropology text book touching on concepts of lineage, power, race, animatism, totemism and cannibalism.  In addition, it created play elements which other great games were to adopt as their very own; games like Viva Pinata and Spore, while drawing influence from Tail of the Sun and Pokemon.  Little wonder then, that a game that features a protagonist that is a simple cube, but is as deep as any progression-driven RPG, is misunderstood.

The most immediately noticeable aspect of the game is the abstracted art style that some reviewers have confused as being the result of limited skill and imagination rather than an artistic choice. The developers make it clear that the game supports Progressive Scan, as if to thumb their noses at the suggestion they don't take their tech seriously.  Indeed, the minimalist form of the game emphasizes the central theme, which is that of evolution.  The environment evolves along with the player.

 Actually yes.

Actually yes.

The goal of the game is to defeat, by consumption, the Killer Cubivore -- the most evolved of the cubes.  You must build up strength to do this by fighting and eating other creatures.  When you eat the creatures, you take on their attributes.  You may choose a combination of creatures to form the attributes you desire the most, much as you would cook ingredients in certain RPG's to make potions.

As you gain strength, female cubes will be attracted to you which allows you to mate with them.  *SPOILER* ADVANCE TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVE ANY INTENTION OF PLAYING *SPOILER* Immediately after mating with a female you will expire.  You will start the next level, at first wondering why it is that you cannot move your character.  He has died.  Soon a smaller version of you, now a cube with an appendage will appear.  It is a touching moment that comes from no-where and has an impact that cannot be explained, but from that point on, you know this is a serious game with some serious messages.  This repeats itself time and again, with the message open to many forms of profound and/ or absurd interpretation.

Having gone through an evolution, you will now be able to move around easier, and consume your meat at a faster rate, growing more limbs with each transformation, and attracting even more female followers.

Even the smallest details of the game are thoughtful.  The scenes in-between evolutions are humorous and touching.  It is hard to understand how a translator would have tackled this material.  The script it pun-laden and innocent at the same time.  The 30 page full color manual features oil-painting like cross-sections of a cubivore's body (quite distinct from the minimalist view in the game).

The game play consists of training, fighting, eating, mating and moving on.  Simple things, that most humans have trouble doing.  In this game, each of these is enjoyable.

The only problem with the game is the camera, though only at certain times.  While in some battles you are often caught fighting an opponent who is off-screen.

As a form of expression, Cubivore reached a level of accord that I have found with only a few movies and books, and has a devilish mix of simplicity and complexity which is delightful.

- Phil Fogg