Cubic Ninja
| Cubic Ninja

You may find it a little odd that Cubic Ninja is touted as the first Nintendo 3DS retail release that isn't displayed in stereoscopic 3D.

The main driving force for the console is, of course, the 3D effect, so why would a developer big up the fact that its game doesn't take advantage of this new technology?

There's a method behind the madness - Cubic Ninja makes use of the 3DS's gyroscope, meaning you move a blocky ninja around a series of mazes by tilting your handheld.

And as you'll most likely be well aware, tilting the 3DS can lead to the 3D effects burning holes in your retinas. Therefore, Cubic Ninja attempts to keep your eyeballs intact by limiting the action to strictly two dimensions.

Unfortunately, nothing else about this game appears to have been considered quite so thoroughly, with awkward controls, pointless power-ups, and dull level design souring the experience.

It's hip to be cube

In Cubic Ninja, you play CC, an heroic hexahedron on a quest to save the princess from some nasty bandits. Over five worlds and 100 levels, you guide your square block around a series of mazes by tilting your 3DS in whichever direction you need him to move.

As he slides around, there are bumpers to bounce off, spikes to dodge, electricity to keep your distance from, and plenty of other obstacles.

Cubic Ninja has a rather fancy feel to it, with stylish menus and an overall pleasant aesthetic. It really feels like a great deal of care and attention was put into making the game look as slick as possible.

Tilt to rage

The rest of the game isn't so well designed, however.

While tilting up, down, left, and right are easy enough, the game also asks you to tilt 'towards' yourself.

Have a good think about that one. How could you possibly tilt the console into yourself? Well, apparently, this involves tilting the console nearly all the way around so that the top screen is nearly facing the floor.

This allows CC to fall towards you, and navigate different planes of the level. Of course, this also means you have to completely tilt your body so you can still see the screen, or hold the console above your head. Now imagine having to tilt the console in different directions while it's in this position!

It's very awkward indeed and completely counterintuitive. Throw in some awful level composition, where, for instance, a long corridor with spikes covers the end so that you're constantly being caught off-guard, and enjoyment levels soon begin to dwindle.

Not so ninja-like

Cubic Ninja attempts to inject some excitement back into proceedings via extra collectibles and power-ups, but many of these fall flat, too.

Collecting scrolls gives you access to four special power-ups, but three of these are pretty pointless. The only one we really used was the invincibility power, which we'd save up for the more frustrating levels.

There are a few different modes, from Time Attack to Survival, and a whole level editor built in that outputs QR codes you can share with friends.

Yet, this is all overshadowed by frustratingly long loading times, awful boss battles that rely on your remembering attack patterns, and a campaign which is over within just a couple of hours.

Cubic Ninja is an interesting first try at putting the 3DS's gyroscope to use, but a lot more thought is required in implementation to realise the full potential of its capabilities.

Cubic Ninja

Cubic Ninja tilts towards the bargain bin with awkward controls and maddeningly silly level design
Mike Rose
Mike Rose
An expert in the indie games scene, Mike comes to Pocket Gamer as our handheld gaming correspondent. He is the author of 250 Indie Games You Must Play.