Mento's May Madness More: #8 - Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory

May the Eighth

The game: Turtle Cream's Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory

The source: Indie Royale's The Evolved Bundle

The pre-amble: Sugar Cube is a puzzle-platformer from a South Korean Indie game studio in which the player is an anthropomorphized sugar cube trying to make his way through a series of confectionery themed worlds. He has the unusual ability to flip background tiles as he walks past them, revealing all sorts of hidden details that will help or hinder his progress. Most stages appear to be fairly straightforward (or, conversely, utterly impossible), but the various mysteries of the reverse side can complicate matters quite quickly.

The game has an unfortunate propensity towards Comic Sans. And references.

The playthrough: OK, enough of the ringer entries for the time being. Back to unknown territory. I'll get into Sugar Cube in a little more detail in just a moment, but first: a digression.

Every day I walk for about 20-30 minutes, just around the block a few times. It's nothing much as exercise regimens go, but it's (hopefully) sufficient to keep away the cardiac arrests and DVT and the legion of potential ailments that can cut down a sedentary heavy-set fellow in his prime. For a similar reason I play a minimum amount of puzzle games each week to keep my mind sharp, which can be a handy way to recover brain cells I've lost by arguing in the forums or watching too many episodes of Game Grumps in a row. My old standby, before I ran out of stages to play, was Toki Tori: a very deliberately paced Indie puzzle game in which placement and timing was everything.

This one was relatively simple.

Sugar Cube seems a little too light to take over where that fat little yellow bird left, as it's only five worlds long and each takes less than half an hour to complete (so far anyway; I doubt I'll be waltzing through them to the same extent much longer) but in many other respects it's a worthy successor. Instead of the slow, methodical pace there's more of an impetus to jump around and feel things out, get a sense of what the reverse side of the stage is like and understand precisely what is required to reach its goal. These hidden elements seem to range from simple concealed platforms to all sorts of buried obstacles and traps and it's usually fairly difficult to predict how a level will play out without poking at it a few times. It's not a super-enthralling game by any stretch, but there's enough here to pique and hold my interest. If I had to say why this game stands out among a legion of similar also-rans, it's that it tries to remain unpredictable: There's definitely something to be said for mystique, even if it does mean a bit of trial and error before the solution can form in your mind.

The game also has these inexplicable Katamari Damacy style cutscenes between worlds. I cannot make heads or tails of them. I wonder if "shrug, South Korea" will replace "shrug, Japan" some day?

The verdict: I'm only two worlds in, so it's going into my puzzle game rotation with a few others. I'll probably never be shy of a few dozen incomplete puzzle-platformers in my Steam library, but there's a reason the genre is fairly ubiquitous.

(With apologies to Alexis)

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