One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Roger Ebert once made the now infamous claim that video games can never be considered art. He said that “…for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.” The thing about art is that it is subjective; it can mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another. That leads us to Cube &Star: An Arbitrary Love, a game that is left wide open to interpretation and imagination.
You are informed there was a cube and a star and somehow they loved each other. Because of this star-crossed love affair the world has gone grey and your mighty cube has been charged to put the color back into the world. Much like real life, if you smack random shapes around long enough, they will become your friend and aid you in your quest. You roll, collect, smash and destroy things.
Cube & Star’s collectables roll down the window, take one look at Banjo Kazooie, and proceed to point and laugh. This game is a collectables fest of biblical proportions, each one being some kind of a metaphor for the player’s journey through life. Stars are used to help you bash random shapes over the head and put them into friendship mode. Coins net you a salary paycheck or some other form of money. Journal entries read like something out of a serial killer’s diary; a sort of simplistic scrawling that would fit neatly on the wall of some truck stop bathroom or dug into the walls of a basement dungeon. Gems, and shape trophies each have their own fortune cookie statements to make. Then you gain super powers.
There are four large totem statues to find in the world of Cube & Star each one granting a unique ability. One gives you the ability to paint a massive area the same colour as you are, another gives you what appears to be the ability to paint certain sections a darker color and to kill grass. The one you may find yourself using the most is the ability to summon awe-inspiring flames that burn down a gigantic portion of your globe under the right, or perhaps wrong, circumstances.
The world of Cube & Star is massive; you will find yourself rolling around for hours on end filling in each square of the globe with color. The handy map feature shows you where you have been so far and what colors you have pained the planet. If you color something in and grass grows, that color stays permanently, if grass does not grow, that color can be changed later by either you or your companions. By the end of the game your map will resemble a Jackson Pollock painting.
The sole theme song of Cube &Star is reminiscent of some of the music from Final Fantasy VII, somber yet sweet;an exploration of musical expression. The game’s sound effects, on the other hand, can come across as tinny and too quiet.
Graphically this game has a simplistic early Playstation-era style. Textures are basic, abstract shapes represent trees, shrubs, grass, and all of the creatures that make up this living, breathing planet your cube inhabits.
Controls are uncomplicated, giving you the option of using a keyboard and mouse or a controller. If you are using a controller, the button for advancing through text and starting a Forrest fire are one in the same. This may of course be a small issue for those that try to speed through text too quickly as you may find yourself burning down areas of land that you didn’t want to. Luckily this is a mistake that can be corrected with the use of another totem. It is frustrating nonetheless.
By the creator’s own admission Cube &Star: An Arbitrary Love is a strange entity, but it makes a compelling case for games as high-art. You are left alone in a world full of creatures, with the ability to color that world as you see fit, gaining powers and friends as you go. It is an analogy for life and the search for meaning within. The game features an astonishing 93 achievements; we may have finally reached the point where even the most achievement hungry gamer screams “uncle!”. If you give Cube & Star: An Arbitrary Love a chance you may find something worthwhile and perhaps even artistic within.
Cube &Star: An Arbitrary Love is now available on Steam.