In our high-paced modern society mobile games serve as an efficient and practical way for gamers to get their fix on the move. With the average mobile entertainment session only lasting about 6 minutes or so to be successful a game needs to be both eye catching and simple to learn and play allowing the player to stop and start without wasting too much time trying to remember their place. Because of these constraints, the most popular mobile games tend to stick to colourful resource managers such as Clash of Clans, puzzlers like Candy Crush or the tried and true endless runner, each allowing for a quick game or handful of turns between coffee breaks.
Armenia based developer ArmNomad Games’ newest puzzler Cubway is a game that strikes out on its own, shying away from the colourful and cheerful designs of its compatriots in favour of a more subdued aesthetic and sombre tone. Advertising itself as “a journey with an abstract story of life cycle of rebirth, called Samsara”, Cubway tasks players with guiding a small red cube across the screen, navigating a variety of static and mobile obstacles in their way. The controls of the game are simple: tapping the right side of the screen moves the cube forward and tapping the left side moves it backwards. As the player progresses and the difficulty increases the ability to move both up and down is unlocked adding an additional layer of complexity to the puzzles.
Design-wise it’s very pleasing to the eye with a sleek, futuristic look that incorporates elements of minimalism without appearing overly sparse. Each level has its own underlying theme and title with the level’s completion rewarding the player with a connected and often sombre image. Concise and straight to the point, the little puzzler wastes little time on excess flair in an apparent reflection of the buddhist desire to relieve oneself of the trappings and distractions of materialism.
The soundtrack to me is one of the game’s high points, with composer Sij providing a collection of dark orchestral themes in the vein of Dark Ambient and Drone stylings that contribute to the game’s overall surreal and melancholic tone. If Samsara is the story of ones life cycle then Cubway tells the story of one very depressed individual.
In spite of its many accomplishments however Cubway does have its detractions, with the overly sensitive controls and high level of difficulty ranking as its greatest sins. Addictive, compelling and curiously entertaining, Cubway is more of an interactive artwork than a mobile game more likely to leave players swearing in frustration than smiling with enjoyment.
Currently available via the itunes app store, Cubway has also achieved recent Steam Greenlight approval though a future release date for the platform has yet to be announced.
Chris Senz is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2.