• Cubivore Review - Nintendo Gamecube (Dobutsu Bancho Animal Leader)

    A Gamecube logo Animal appears on the screen and roars. It runs into the distance where it proceeds to squat and defecate. Welcome to Dobutsu Bancho (Animal Leader), better known as Cubivore, and one of the most unique concepts in modern video gaming. Originally planned for the N64, this game has been updated and released on the Gamecube. The main gimmick of this game is its unique visual presentation. Everything in Cubivore is made up of cubes, the only exceptions being bunches of grass and the odd tree.
    Each animal has its own unique shape and colouring and its movement has been animated beautifully to compliment its shape. When attacked the creatures will lose purple cubic blood, which certainly adds to the atmosphere of the rugged wilds. There are a few nice touches added into the environment. As you walk through thick grass, cubic scraps are kicked up into the air. As your animal wades through a pool of water cubed lines represent the ripples. The world is complimented by a square Sun in the sky, and when day turns to night a blue square moon replaces it.
    By description you would imagine that the graphics fail to add any realism to the game, but it would be a false presumption. The sound certainly helps in this area. The game is presented in Dolby Surround that brings the noise of the wilds around you. Animals have taunts and screams that they let out at each other in warning. When involved in battles they will squeal and whimper as they are attacked and ripped apart. The sounds are very lifelike, and once again, each different shape has its own unique sound. After a short while of playing this game you will really feel as if you are taking part in a rough and ragged animal kingdom.
    A pleasant soundtrack compliments the in game sound effects. When you begin an incarnation the music takes on the form of a light and dreamy state as your newborn wakes out of its slumber. When you encounter a boss the game will turn to a deep piano to signify the danger involved. During each level the game is accompanied by a selection of guitar, violin or piano based tunes. Sadly they could have done with a bit of variety with only around 5 different tracks. They can get a bit repetitive but they are decent nonetheless. Overall the graphics and sound do combine to make an enjoyable atmospheric experience.
    The basic premise of the game is to hunt, eat, mate and evolve. Sounds pretty simple but the game does have some depth. The game is played out over a variety of levels set in swamps, deserts and grasslands and is played over 3 incarnations - pig, bear and bird. The primary objective is to play through these levels trying to gain 100 Hentai. A Hentai refers to a different shape of animal. It is very likely that you will not gain all 100 the first time you play through but the game unlocks a stage select that allows you to play though the Pig, Bear or Bird sections individually and gain the remaining Hentai. Once all 100 are on your chart you get the chance to battle the Animal leader to try and take its place at the top of the food chain. After this primary objective is complete you can then try to collect the remaining Hentai in order to complete the game. All in all there are 150 forms to transform into.
    The Hunting factor is the games main element. The formula for transforming your animal is to eat meat of the same colour. Once all of your animal's meat becomes the same colour it will become a new shape. There are 6 colours and each of these has varying shades. The shape you become depends on your current shape, combination of shades and the shape of the animals you've eaten. To devour another animals meat you have to bombard it with ram attacks and bites until its health points are reduced to zero and it becomes stunned. Then you can move in for the kill, snaring the defenceless animal in your jaws and ripping its meat off. Depending on the development of your fangs you can rip off up to 3 pieces of meat at a time. Additionally, there is some variation with some of the Hentai and your animal can partake in some very gruesome attacks that leave your victim spurting its purple cubic blood into the air.
    As you can imagine there is a great deal of strategy involved in the game as you decide which colour animal to attack to prevent becoming a weaker form. In the latter stages you gain the ability to defecate the previous colour you gained using the Z Trigger. This can prove useful if you have eaten a weak coloured or shaded animal. Most animals will hang around in packs so it pays to try and separate the target from the group. The reason for this is that it can get tricky fighting 5 or more animals at once as the game incorporates a lock on system. You use the L shoulder button to lock onto an intended target and then attack with the A button.

    As you progress through the game it becomes a case of being the hunter and the hunted as animals start to target and attack you. This is when the game really begins and it is a good thing that you are provided with unlimited continues as you are going to need them. Some of the tougher beasts are almost relentless in their assault and will not hesitate to grab and rip off your flesh, leaving you bleeding heavily, as soon as your health is at zero and your creature lays stunned. Luckily the environment includes methods of regaining health. Green animals are easy prey and restore quite a large chunk. Additionally certain grasses can be munched upon and energy balls can be collected that, once triggered, fully replenish your energy meter. A sometimes-useful feature occurs towards the end of nighttime. Your animal will go to sleep and awake fully recovered. This also leads to some epic boss battles that draw out over a day or two.

    It is during these battle sequences that one of the games flaws becomes apparent. The camera can sometimes prove a hindrance when trying to defend against an attack or when your animal has developed some speed and you end up attacking a foe that is off of the screen. The game provides a radar which does somewhat aid you although for some reason in latter stages animals seem to pop up on the radar and the screen only once you approach the area they are grazing in. Giving the developers the benefit of the doubt, this could be down to them using the camouflage ability that you pick up once your animal reaches a certain stage of development.

    Bosses are a significant factor in the game. For the most part, the aim of defeating one of the boss animals is to open up access to the next section and to collect the flesh item that it carries upon itself. There are 6 various flesh items, each providing a special ability. For example, the claw item allows you to target animals whilst on the move. Occasionally, defeating a boss serves a different purpose such as opening up an area on an existing level or allowing access to the all important love shack. The love shack is a heart shaped cave that leads into a pink coloured room. This presents the other important game play element, Mating.

    Mating is important in both the evolution and Hentai collection process of the game. Once you have entered the mating area you will be surrounded by a number of females depending on your animal rank and the number of attraction bugs you have eaten. Attraction bugs are heart symbol creatures and icons placed throughout the levels. Once your animal and its female companions have left the screen to do their business you will be given a choice of offspring to choose as your successor. These offspring have the advantage of being made up of 1 additional piece of flesh. The animals in the game can have up to 6 pieces of flesh. Once you have made your selection you are returned to the game where the corpse of your previous form lies motionless and the game continues.

    Some players will no doubt find the game to be repetitive after a while and not see any replay value in the game. To try to balance the game the developers have included some variation. Depending on the shape of your animal the jumping, walking and attacking style can vary. There have been sub levels added into the game and some hidden areas that include rare species and power ups. This might not be enough to keep those that get bored interested for much longer though. But somebody that takes to the game will definitely enjoy finding all that is hidden and playing through the whole game a fair few times.

    The Japanese version is text heavy and that might be off putting to some. However, it does not hinder the game play in any way. The only thing that you will miss out on is some of the story, most of which is illustrated anyway. Additionally the text laden tutorial stage at the beginning of the game is accompanied by icons to show which buttons to push for the various abilities.

    This game is worth looking into if you like an original game. Overall this is a unique and enjoyable experience.

    A review by Bob Compton
    Score: 6/10
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