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The Cub review — Primal platforming

In the wake of the Great Ecological Catastrophe, the Earth is but a shadow of its former self. Leaving billions behind to die, the ultra-rich boarded spaceships and fled to Mars without a second thought. In spite of this, life on our blue planet wouldn’t give up so easily. Taken in by a pack of Wolves, a young Orphan with immunity to the hostile conditions on Earth now calls the ruins of a past civilization home. However, his peaceful life would soon be turned upside down when a recon team of Martians returns to capture him for study.

The Cub holds platforming at the core of its experience, and while it is certainly functional, it’s less than smooth. Jumps can feel heavy and sluggish, and will often not link together very evenly. If you’re swinging between street lamps, you’ll sometimes misjudge the distance, or hold the jump for too long and send yourself right past it. Movement can also be stunted by so many things in the environment, and you’ll never quite be sure if your character is going to land where you think they will when making a perilous leap. Swinging from ropes is heavy, and oftentimes it felt more like I was attaching to magnetic points in the world rather than flowing through it. I understand that the game is aiming for a challenging experience, but I want the difficulty to come from level design, not the controls or movement itself. It certainly isn’t unplayable or outright bad, but it is noticeable.

If there is one thing The Cub nails, it’s the environment. I really enjoyed the art direction of each level, providing unique backdrops that help flesh out the futuristic yet barren Earth. Whether you’re scrambling through shattered skyscrapers or swinging over chomping Crocodiles in the swamps, the beautiful colors and wonderfully illustrated levels will surely keep your attention. Most encounters felt engaging, with members of the Martian recon team hunting you down with various tactics and weaponry. Sometimes you’ll be sprinting away from a net that’s hot on your heels, or leaping over traps fired along your path from a distant foe, all of which felt rather fun to elude. I especially enjoyed how some areas offered different paths to reach destinations, allowing some player freedom in what type of movement challenges they want to take on as they explore.

One of the selling points within The Cub is the aptly named Radio Nostalgia From Mars, a broadcast that plays through your stolen Martian helmet as you traverse the world and evade capture. I’m mixed on this mechanic, because on paper it sounds like a lore friendly way to deliver a soundtrack/background chatter to the platforming, but in practice it left me wanting more. Whether or not you like the experimental tracks on offer is of course going to depend on your music taste, but I personally wasn’t a big fan of “toddler pop” filling my ears as I traversed the landscape. There are a few bops here and there, but I preferred the more personal interviews, as they helped breathe some life back into the wasteland. All in all, I wish this served more as a radio than it does, being able to change channels or swap to different tracks, but we will have to settle for this more basic implementation.

On top of your goal of evading capture, there’s of course an array of collectibles strewn about to scrounge for. Some of these are rather run-of-the-mill like newspapers or notes, but there’s also more abstract ones like television shows or various foods colloquially titled “Burps” that you can find. I do wish there was a way to view which levels had missed collectibles hiding in them during a second playthrough, but it isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

If you’ve been a big fan of platformers for a while now, The Cub brings enough to the table to create a mostly enjoyable experience, just one that feels very middle of the pack. The environments and level design make up for the less than smooth platforming mechanics, but it may still not be enough to move the needle for some. Despite the wild nature of The Cub, it boiled down to a game that was mostly tame.

Editor | Website

Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.

70

Good

The Cub

Review Guidelines

The Cub is a functional platformer, but not a flashy one. Movement can feel stiff at times, but the colorful landscapes and levels will still carry the experience. If you’re a big fan of platformers, you’ll certainly find some enjoyment within the approximately four hour experience, even if it can feel less than ambitious at times.

Corvo Rohwer

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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