I haven’t played Minecraft. It’s perhaps a surprising admission to make, given that Mojang’s cultural phenomenon has captivated millions worldwide with its seemingly endless creativity. But, still, without a release on Nintendo’s systems, we’re yet to cross paths.
Cypronia has looked to fill such void with Cube Life: Island Survival, delivering their own alternative open-world survival sandbox on Wii U entirely constructed with large pixelated chunks. The ingredients are evidently similar to Mojang’s billion-dollar-earning creation, but without any preconceived idea as to what to expect, I wondered how well the Slovakian developer could demonstrate what I have been missing.
Cube Life: Island Survival will divide your time between the more daunting Survival Mode, and a separate Creative Mode that will let you freely construct in randomly generated worlds without any restriction.
Somewhat narrative-driven, Survival Mode provides context behind the player’s character as a rich billionaire whose perfect life was suddenly shattered when his cruise ship struck an unknown object and sank. Money, friends, cars and an enviable mansion mean nothing when you wake stranded on a desert island, and players immediately begin their fight for survival as the lone survivor of the shipwreck.
It’s an unrelenting challenge, as players are left to maintain rapidly depleting health, hunger and thirst counters to the top-left of the screen. This can regularly feel like an overbearing preoccupation, with players left to fend for themselves with minimal guidance.
It can quickly become incredibly difficult to maintain these, as players scramble around the game’s sporadic islands for sources of food and water – whether that be from fruit and coconuts, or the aggressive animals that wander around.
If left to reach zero, your character’s malnourished state will be reflected in your health slowly falling which ultimately means that you will meet an untimely demise. Don’t be surprised to be repeatedly greeted with “You Died!,” but players are encouraged to save often even if the menu interface isn’t particularly solid.
The day-to-night cycle helps to breathe life into Cube Life: Island Survival, although you will in danger of being mobbed of cannibals once the sun sets. It’s never particularly clear why, but perhaps billionaires are tastier…
A crafting system provides the means for you to create tools to defend yourself, which in turn will help increase your productivity in daylight to gather resources. However, these tools can break incredibly quickly which is frustrating given that managing your inventory and crafting aren’t particularly intuitive.
It soon becomes far more preferable to simply hide, especially considering the AI driving the marauding cannibals isn’t intelligent to chase you into narrow caves. But in these instances, it becomes readily apparent that your survival relies more heavily on food and water rather than self-defence. As, without gathering the necessary supplies, it is likely that the player will die from starvation or dehydration overnight.
Creative Mode is a more relaxed accompaniment, placing emphasis on creation rather than deflecting your attention elsewhere. This is rather by-the-book and simplistic in design, failing to provide all the necessary tools to start with and adding in a fly-by camera viewpoint that disconcertingly lets you move directly through the terrain.
Cube Life: Island Survival sadly fumbles over notable performance issues, with an otherwise pleasing aesthetic being disrupted by a short draw distance that results in jarring pop-in issues. Become too trigger-happy with destroying blocks in Creative Mode, and the frame rate suffers some consistent drops too. Add in long loading screens when reloading the game’s single save file or shifting between areas in Survival Mode, these all amount to areas that detract from what Cypronia have tried to accomplish.
The Wii U GamePad is implemented for Off-TV Play, which is a welcome addition for those that have to intermittently sacrifice the luxury of their TV screen. Whereas touchscreen input will help navigate menus in assisting inventory management and crafting.
As was once said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But, Cube Life: Island Survival works hard to strike out on its own terms. This can be seen as a solid foundation to Cypronia’s take on the block-building genre, and with updates promising to add local multiplayer, bug fixes and additional features, it’s clear that it will only continue to evolve in response to community feedback.