For this review, I decided to pick a game at random. Hopefully a game I've never played before. As I was never the owner of a Nintendo Entertainment System, and the only time I ever used one was when I should have been doing something completely different (see my Excitebike review for info), I've decided that picking a random NES game is quite likely to result in me finding something completely new.
Using my amazing state-of-the-art random game picker, the game I randomly picked was........ Genghis Khan. Never heard of it before, but thought I'd give it a go. I somehow procured the game, powered it up, became overcome by emotion due to its opening theme tune, and then began my quest for world domination. After twenty minutes of not having a clue what I was doing, I gave up, returned to my random game picker, and picked another game at random. And this time it randomly picked Kickle Cubicle, another game I'd never heard of. So, using my skills of procurement again, I managed to acquire this game, and booted it up.
Kickle Cubicle is a block sliding puzzle game. As its childish name suggests, it's one of those cutesy games with cutesy characters, a premise which involves you rescuing princesses from castles and palaces, and a bizarre amount of references to fruit and veg.
The game is quite simple to play. Each level takes place on a floating grid of ice tiles. Kickle, who looks a bit like a cross between Dizzy and a dog wearing headphones, basically has to collect bags of gold (could be bags of anything though, but I'm assuming it's gold) from each level. Making things slightly more challenging is the fact that the bags of gold aren't always easily accessible. Kickle can't jump over to them, so he has to make ice tiles to allow him to walk over to them. He does this by freezing enemies, and then pushing them so that they slide to the edge of the platform and turn into an ice tile when they get there. As enemies continuously regenerate, he can repeat the process until he has created a route to get to his bags. Enemies come in different forms - not all of them can be turned into ice blocks and then into ice tiles. You can also build little "walls" to stop the ice block from sliding all the way to the end of the grid, if you want to end up somewhere else. So, each level is a little puzzle to solve. Some are easy (sometimes the solutions are too obvious and in a way seem to be red herrings, even though they're not). And that's it. One puzzle after another puzzle after another. And it's all quite fun. Despite the simplicity of this game, it's not really very easy to explain clearly what you have to do (at least not for me - I've spent the last hour trying to write this paragraph in a way which makes sense and it still doesn't! Oh well, I'm sure I'll have a video on here soon to demonstrate).
One of the good things about the game is that each level relies on your puzzle-solving skills and your game-playing skills too. It's not just a case of getting the pieces of ice in the right places - it's about avoiding enemies, shooting at them and keeping your wits about you. At the end of each stage, you come to an end of level boss who can usually be destroyed by sliding ice at him.
A storyline attempts to give the game some kind of plot and purpose, but isn't really that interesting or necessary to understand for you to proceed with the game.
Graphically everything is nice and tidy with a good use of colour and quality animation. The sprites are clear and lend themselves well to the game's arcade style. The music and effects are good, but the tune gets quite annoying after a while as it's the same one for each level. The game is all very well presented though.
The game is easy to pick up, and the first few levels allow you to learn and develop strategies without throwing too much of a challenge at you. Some later puzzles will drive you crazy, and the action can become quite frantic. As each level can usually be completed fairly quickly, it does have the go-on-just-one-more-level-before-bed-I've-got-work-in-the-morning element, which current games like Angry Birds also have. The problem is, once you've figured out the solution to a puzzle, when you replay the level, it kind of feels like you're going through the motions to complete it. It also isn't one of those games that you feel that you must put on just for a gaming fix as, fun though it is, it isn't the most exciting of games.
I'm surprised that Kickle Cubicle isn't a game that is more well known and that it seems to have vanished to nothing. It's not a bad game at all. Its childish name probably didn't help it to attract a wider audience, but it could be a game that should be brought back to life on a service like the Virtual Console, unlikely as it is to happen.
So, yes, I quite liked Kickle Cubicle. It kept me quiet for a few evenings over the past few weeks, sometimes frustrated the hell out of me, but represented simple good old-fashioned arcade-style gaming.