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Aya and the Cubes of Light - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Aya and the Cubes of Light

WiiWare | Object Vision Software | 1 Player | Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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9th November 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Close to the end of September, Object Vision Software released their first WiiWare game, Aya and the Cubes of Light, and on the whole, I think it was overlooked by many. Releasing in the same rough window as MotoHeroz which had some marketing to give it that push, Aya and the Cubes of Light is backed by a small studio that's just getting their feet off the ground as far as video game development is concerned. Does this modest puzzle game have merits that should make people think twice about skipping over it? I'll let you make that judgment for yourself, because in all honesty, I'm not even sure.

    As the name of the game suggests, you take control of Aya, a heroine of some sort who is trying to recover the lost power sources of the Cube Corporation. Lucky for you, the items you're trying to locate aren't hard to find, but they are tricky to obtain. Each level features coloured key-like items that must be returned to same-coloured doors where they were originally held. Once all the power sources have been returned to their rightful places, the goal gate will then become accessible, bringing the level to conclusion once you touch it.

On the stage map where all the individual levels are housed, you'll find that you're always given two stages at once to complete. In so doing, the game doesn't feel rigid with its progression, and because of the nature of the levels seen here, this is very welcome. All levels appear in the form of giant cubes where each side can be accessed by walking along platforms that curve around the bend, taking you from one side to the other.

    The game is played by using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, where jumping is mapped to an upwards swing of the Remote and movement is controlled using the Analog Stick on the Nunchuk. To activate switches, you need to hold down the Z Button and quickly raise the Nunchuk, while unlocking sealed doors is done by holding the B Button on the Wii Remote and twisting the controller. I was not a fan of jumping with the Wii Remote in this game, but to see the controls follow a similar format of having unnecessary motions for other simple functions didn't sit well with me. The execution here just feels really gimmicky.

    Aya and the Cubes of Light is a puzzle-platformer at heart but it's more about strategy and planning than it is about quick thinking and well-timed actions. Mainly, though, the shtick here is the use of gravity. Some platforms feature curves that allow you to continue walking as though they were continuations of that same platform, instead of the end serving as a wall. Unless you head around the bend to another side of the cubed level, the camera will remain static. Manual camera control can be activated by pointing at the screen, holding down the A Button and dragging the cursor around the screen.

As you change directions, the controls ideally would still have an uninterrupted fluidity to them, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes you'll end up moving the Analog Stick in a direction that may not initially seem to be logical, but it's something you get used to with time. Platforms appear both in a horizontal and vertical fashion which gets you to think about the in-game world a bit differently. New types of platforms will be introduced gradually as the player progresses, including ones that flip when Aya stands on top of them.

    Aside from the power sources, there are basic orb-shaped items that you can gather as well. These aren't required to clear each level, but if you're aiming for 100% completion, then you'll want to grab them as you make your way to the exit. Enemy robots also appear from time to time, but they're usually non-threatening. They will follow the same pattern of walking back and forth on a platform, stopping periodically only to activate a force field. They can be defeated temporarily by simply jumping on their heads, but pretty soon they'll re-appear. If Aya and the enemy touch in any other way, she will be forced back to the level's entry point.

    It's not uncommon to spend 20 minutes or more on one level because of the way the levels have designed. And I mean that in a good way. Although it may not seem so at first, there's some good puzzling here. Players will need to determine where to jump when under gravity's control so that you land in an area that previously appeared too high to reach or at an angle that couldn't support Aya's size. This is definitely one of those games where you will take your time to figure out solutions, and once you get the hang of it there are a lot of moments where you'll catch yourself saying, "Oh, that's how you get up there" or something to that effect. In short, the level design shows thoughtful consideration on the part of the developers.

Frustration is relatively minimal in this game provided you're the kind of gamer who sits things through and likes a bit of trial and error once in a while. Levels often contain multiple doors that you need to set your sights on, and thankfully when the power sources have been returned, the game doesn't continue forcing you to start from the entry point. Instead, these doors double as a checkpoint mechanism that Aya will return to if she falls off the stage or makes contact with an enemy. By the same token, though, the game's fun factor isn't that high either.

    In later missions, Aya is given the ability to use her jetpack by first charging the unit at glowing stations. Then, while in mid-air, players hold the B Button with the Wii Remote pointing upwards. This ability makes levels a little more interesting, but not by a whole lot. In fact, after one or two hours of playtime, your interest levels in the game at large begin to wane. In the way of goals, players can aim for all the items in a level or set times that will earn them trophies, but this isn't a game where you'll feel all that compelled to return to stages you've already completed. Furthermore, Aya and the Cubes of Light is definitely not something you'll be fully immersed in, but that in itself isn't a flawed aspect to the game. It's more of the fact that it's merely a casual interest that gets you through some of these levels than a longing to see what new twists the game will provide. Not to be forgotten, too, are your feelings of commitment to the game that are likely to arise after paying the potentially uncomfortable admission price of $10.

    In line with the above, despite what you might like to refer to as the game's hidden layer of depth, there's something about the way the game is presented that lacks the push players may need to keep playing. This is especially true in a game like this where players are more prone to giving up prematurely. I'll be the first to admit, Aya and the Cubes of Light doesn't look aesthetically pleasing with its bland visual approach and basic presentation values. The music presented here mostly stays the same with little impact at all, so there's not much of an improvement there. I wasn't too fond of the character either, but if you're okay with controlling someone who plays a "just-some-character" role, then it won't detract terribly from your experience.

As weird as it may sound, I feel as though the presentation in this game works against you as you try to enjoy the game. It wasn't too long before I decided I had seen all I wanted to see with the game, and I'm positive that had the game had a stronger visual and audio presence, I would have been more inclined to get farther in the game. For some reason, the game doesn't do a whole lot in the way of keeping players engaged throughout, and this is reflected in the presentation.

    Aya and the Cubes of Light is definitely catered to casual audiences, though its level design almost gives the impression that it's simultaneously trying to appeal to a secondary market. It's not a bad game, but it's not a fun title either. Even with the positive attributes this game has, 1,000 Wii Points is a bit much to ask. So unless you're really in the mood for some gravity-based puzzles, you won't be missing out on a whole lot if you choose to keep on walking. 

18/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Level designs show a thoughtful approach, controls are very gimmicky, gravity theme is explored well in the platforming elements
Presentation 6/10 - Bland visuals with other areas of the game's presentation not faring a lot better, both Aya and the game itself aren't memorable
Enjoyment 2/5 - Level of frustration depends on what kind of gamer you are, minimal fun factor with little to keep players engaged throughout
Extra Content 3/5 - Features a good amount of content but the price is a bit much to ask, trophies to earn in each level, hard to keep your interest going

Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Aya and the Cubes of Light
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