by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Fresh and simple
Cube and Star: An Arbitrary Love is one of those indie games that make us remember why indie games are so important. A fresh, simple exploration game that instead of delivering heart-thumping action, gives you a sense of calm, relaxation, and satisfaction. It is not without its faults, however, but on the whole, this is a very good buy for anyone who wants to spend an afternoon making the world a more colourful place.
The game is very simplistic. All you do, essentially, is move your square up, right, down, or left using the arrow keys, the WASD keys, or by clicking on the map in the direction you want the cube to go. By moving in any direction, you colour the grey checkered ground beneath you. You soon run out of colour, however, and have to absorb more by bumping into coloured trees, who will drop their fruit, which give you colour. The trees also drop stars, which are just one of the many items in the game you can collect and if you hit them often enough, you'll destroy them.
As you traverse the world, you'll discover pieces of encoded history, gems, coins, and artefacts that tell the story of the game. You'll have to decode the history yourself if you have the patience for some guesswork, but I didn't personally find it justified the time it took. There are, in fact, quite a few things that appear pointless in the game. In addition to the encoded history, the gems, stars, coins, and artefacts don't actually serve any purpose. It is probably satisfying to some achievement hunters to see the count of acquired items go up, but other than that, they don't appear to serve a purpose. As you collect these items, a dialogue box opens which halts your progress temporarily. Because I didn't see the point in collecting these items, and due to the annoyance I felt each time my cube froze in place and the same dialogue box I'd seen countless times before appeared, I began deliberately swerving past these items when I saw them lying on the ground.
F for Fire
Your cube also has some powers, which are bound to Z, X, C, and F, but the only one of those that I felt had any effect was F (Fire), which scorches the earth under you. The others make a nice sound, but I failed to see any difference in my surroundings when using them. The only real bug I found in the game appears when the aforementioned dialogue box appears. On several occasions, I was unable to move my box after the dialogue had gone and had to restart the game. Luckily, the game saves its state when you exit, so even if you experience a crash or a bug like this one, you'll get right back into the game in the same place you were before. There's no need to save.
As more of the world gets coloured, other entities begin to appear. There are other colourful squares that jump around colouring the ground, but they tend to keep to specific areas and don't move around as fast as you do. Grey pyramids also hover around the world taking colour away and uttering very depressing sentences whenever you bump into them. Later, rudimentary beings start appearing, marking the birth of complex organisms on your world. Later still, animals called “Tiny Things” will appear who build wind traps, skyscrapers, brutal pyramids, and other buildings. Once all objectives have been completed, something that will take about 3-5 hours by my calculations, you're free to roam the world or start the game all over again.
Relaxing and wholly different
Cube and Star: An Arbitrary Love is a metaphor for the creation of life on this planet. Nature, represented by these commonly understandable geometric shapes, spawned life and spread it through the world where, seemingly independent of nature's actions, more complex lifeforms emerge. This is an illusion, however, as it is nature's continuing expanse that yields the raw materials required for more complex beings to emerge. After one species of being had died out, leaving the planet grey and desolate, life now returns to resurrect it.
The game is undoubtedly not for everyone, but if you'd like a wholly different experience within a relaxing atmosphere spent bringing colour to a world in dire need of it, then I suggest you get Cube and Star: An Arbitrary Love.
Relaxing, colourful world exploration.
Slow, annoying dialogue boxes, some elements seem pointless, bugs