Kickle Cubicle (NES) review
"Whoever said that truth is stranger than fiction may want to step back and re-evaluate that position after taking a look at Kickle Cubicle, one of the most certifiably weird games to squeak by the Pacific shoreline and get into this country. Our hero Kickle is a little white man in black coveralls who can turn his enemies into ice cubes and form great ice pillars from the ground. In case his name yields no clues for you, he can also kick the ice blocks he "
Whoever said that truth is stranger than fiction may want to step back and re-evaluate that position after taking a look at Kickle Cubicle, one of the most certifiably weird games to squeak by the Pacific shoreline and get into this country. Our hero Kickle is a little white man in black coveralls who can turn his enemies into ice cubes and form great ice pillars from the ground. In case his name yields no clues for you, he can also kick the ice blocks he
makes around, creating bridges in the chilly waters surrounding him and knocking out the annoying blue blobs and roosters that ceaselessly accost him. If you don't think any of that is particularly weird, you may either want to schedule an appointment for a lobotomy or just stop breathing altogether.
Flying in by way of a balloon tied to his adorable little earmuffs, the ivory-skinned Kickle's hilarious adventures qualify as weird enough to make gamers contort their faces in convoluted expression of disapproval within the first few screens. Despite the introductory world being called Garden Land, all one can see for several miles and stages is a frozen wasteland. Where have the mighty corn shucks gone? Where the stems of carrots once protuded mightily from the earth, they seem to have all been eradicated in the killing frosts of evil. Is there any singular reason for this? Why is a place called Garden Land smothered in a sheet of ice? Most of the time, one can shrug it off easily, chalking it up to the silliness we've come to expect from our distant friends on the Japanese archipelago. But this nags so deeply that we wonder: what's really going on here?
A clue comes to us just two levels into the game in the form of a bearded, bespectacled corn-on-the-cob who approaches our hero and informs him that the Wizard King has usurped the Fantasy Kingdom throne and has confined the innocent denizens of the world to these islands of bitter cold and despair. He's also using their once grand and enormous palaces for his own evil devices, and the people of the world have no choice but to watch helplessly and hope that cute little Kickle can somehow use his talent for kicking ice around to a heroic end. In a hokey cutesy action game this premise would be an apple and the game would be the wet piece of paper that it fell through, but seeing as how Kickle Cubicle is for the most part a methodical, somewhat slow-paced puzzle game, Kickle's abilities fit in nicely with the genre, and on top of it there's an ongoing story to constantly up the ante and make things interesting.
After all, it's not often you get a puzzle game that relies on more than just its addicting nature to hook you. Fascinatingly, the story is what keeps Kickle Cubicle moving even when the puzzles start to lose steam. Kickle's out to accomplish more than just testing his mettle on hundreds of slippery playing fields. He learns of his mission quickly (to rescue the four princesses being
frightened by various monstrosities) and sets off without so much as a word, determined to ice whoever it takes to restore the land to order.
The plot thickens. Puzzles become more difficult, introducing rotating hammers, rogue bombs, cannons, turrets, and roosters with smug sunglasses to the mix. Kickle goes about his business taking it all in stride, but then he's a little white man with earmuffs who can create ice from absolutely nothing, and I'm a warm-blooded even-tanned human being who's totally grounded in reality. Nothing
really eventful happens as Kickle circumvents the carrot-shaped island outside Garden Land.
Until he finishes it.
After all the individual icebergs have broken up into tiny floes, returning to the mighty sea from whence they came, a small tomato girl leads the young Kickle up a vine that weaves about the sky and stretches far up into the clouds, where Kickle steps into a grand aerial palace beset upon by (brace yourself) a giant chicken with an eye-patch. Shall we rewind that real quick?
beset by (brace yourself) a giant chicken with an eye-patch. Did you catch that? Did your head spin a 360 and fall on the floor and you had to pick it back up? I thought so. It's during the boss battles that KC shows what it's truly made of. Deftly leaving aside its puzzle roots to partake of the action buffet for a moment, KC is at its peak during these epic battles with cycloptic roosters, psychotic clowns with bloodshot right eyes, and angry turtles that spin shells on their fingers like they're a Harlem Globetrotter or something. In those moments one feels like Kickle is capable of anything he sets his mind to, or even more than he sets his mind to.
That couldn't be truer, as you'll find when you've conquered the game once and for all. After rescuing the fourth and final princess babe from Toy Land, the Fantasy Land is restored to peace and the four princesses go back to ruling the land with a cream-puffed fist and trying on scandalous gowns, but Kickle doesn't stop there. In a world full of video game heroes who are content to beat the levels they are consigned to and go home with the Princess from some decidedly un-8-bit lovin', Kickle stays with the cause. He continues his quest in a set of 30 special levels that exemplify the thanklessness that comes with his special brand of earmuffed, ice-kicking heroism. Without a lick of regard for anyone who would deride him, Kickle continues to do that which he loves, the very thing that gives his life purpose - all for the sheer heck of it.
Kickle Cubicle is a solid game that earns its rock-hard right-side-up infinity, but not an inch more. For as many challenges as it possesses, the whole thing feels a bit too contrived, the package it's bundled in just a bit too tight. But in light of the enjoyment to be derived from it, this is a minor gripe. Few games come around that downplay their quirkiness as much as KC does, and the poker face works to the game's advantage. It takes itself utterly seriously, and thus the player to is able as well. The elements look like oil and water when taken separately, but you'll soon find that they more closely resemble chocolate syrup and water. And like the latter mixture, it's one that anyone with impeccable taste will find sinfully delicious.
Community review by snowdragon (May 02, 2004)
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