Kickle Cubicle

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US cover.

Kickle Cubicle is an action puzzle video game developed and published by Irem, initially for the arcade in Japan in June 1988, and later on the Nintendo Entertainment System on 1990-06-29. The NES port was essentially the same game with stages that were smaller in size, but greater in number. The arcade game appears to feature large monsters and gods, but the NES port had its story reworked so that the Wicked Wizard King has turned the four lands into ice and captured four princesses who need to be rescued by Kickle. Kickle — who is always drawn as a boy in the game's promotional art, but appears in-game as a snowman — has the ability to spit icy breath which can freeze weaker enemies into blocks which can be kicked across the ice and into the water to build paths. Kickle can also grow a solid column of ice to create stopping points for kicked ice or block enemies from advancing. Larger enemies can be frozen and shattered, and some are immune to his ice all together. Using these abilities, Kickle must build paths to the dream bags in the stage and collect them all to help the kidnapped people escape.

Personal

I never played Kickle Cubicle on the NES when it was popular. Instead, I remember playing a ROM of it in the late 1990s using NESticle. I was immediately impressed by the visuals and game play style, but I suspected that the game would be very long and require a lot of skill and repetition to master it, and, at the time, I didn't feel like putting that much effort into it. Over the next 20 years, I would occasionally start it up, play a few levels, and then get bored and put it down again, but, in 2021, I was on a long streak of finishing games, so I picked this one up again to see how it handled continuing after a game over. Seeing that it appeared to have infinite continues, I actually tried to finish the game, and I beat the standard portion on 2021-03-20 and then completed all the bonus stages on 2021-03-27 without any hints, but a whole lotta game overs. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by the game, and my appreciate for it grew even more.

Status

I don't own this game but I have beaten both the regular game and the bonus stages.

Review

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7 6 7 6 6

Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • The game art is fantastic. It's some of the best cartoon art on the platform with the characters and backgrounds being well-drawn and vibrant.
  • The puzzles, particularly later in the game, get especially devious and require you to play around with them for a fair amount of time before their solution becomes apparent. On more than one puzzle, I just stared at the game board for a very long time failing to see how it could possibly be beaten, and, when I finally did solve the puzzle, it was very satisfying.
  • The level designers really exploited everything there was to do with the game's engine. Rather than having subsequent puzzles become harder versions of earlier puzzles (which is a problem for most puzzle games), the game requires you to learn new techniques even late in the game. The designers also did a good job of making the layout of the map give you a hint toward its solution.
  • The music is very fitting for the game.
  • The NES port has a good manual.
  • Kickle's trip, while walking up to the king in the ending sequence of the NES port, is hilarious.

Bad

  • Some of the early stages drag on a bit and don't grow in difficulty fast enough which caused me to lose interest in the game multiple times.
  • In the NES port, the difficulty explodes in Toy Land, and some stages are pretty unfair. Not the cerebral ones which require a lot of forethought, but those based solely on avoiding a swarm of invincible monsters. These become particularly nasty in the bonus stages where you have to solve several difficult puzzle elements while being constantly chased by enemies.
  • The interesting bosses from the arcade original (like the lizard) are replaced in the NES port with several bosses that are all nearly identical. I would have preferred the originals, or, at the very least, more variation.
  • Since you have infinite continues in the NES port, and you continue on the same stage where you got a game over, the only downside of a game over is that it resets your score. Due to the length and complexity of the game, even if you're very familiar with the game, it's extremely unlikely you'll beat it without seeing a game over, which means the designers may as well have dispensed with points and lives entirely. If they were really dead-set on maintaining lives, I would have preferred to see something more tangible than the loss points when you get a game over; perhaps putting check points only between several stages. However, I would just prefer infinite lives.
  • While they were busy reworking the story for the NES, couldn't the designers have come up with something more interesting than saving four princesses?
  • The title, both in English and Japanese, doesn't really fit with the game's setting. There is nothing about ice or the fact that you're a sentient snowman.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Media

Box Art

I haven't been able to find any Japanese arcade art other than a flyer. Each console release uses the same art. Kickle flies on a balloon over a grid with the game's monsters angrily gawking at him, and the different palaces are visible. The cartoon is professionally done and fits the game nicely.

Documentation

Fan Art

Videos

Longplay - Arcade.
Longplay - NES.

Credits

Role Staff
Game Design Hiroya Kita
Program Kenji Nishi (Total Director), Moichi Matsumoto (Leader), Yukiya Kidani, Mitsuya Wataya, Yoshinori Tanaka
Graphics Manchan (Give Me Yome), Kama Yamakazi, Kiyoshi Wataya, Miki Hiraga
Sound (Arcade) Fan, Noriboz, Sclap
Obstacler Gomasuri, Kazuchan Jr9cle, Book Bridge, Mama Sugako
High Score Names Hiroya Kita (as ♥♥♥Hirogon♥♥♥), ♂♂Dandy Harry♂♂, ⚠⚠⚠Mantaro⚠⚠⚠, Miikun♥♥Junchan, ♥Yoshi⛔⛔⛔Kazue♥, ⛉⛉Hirorin♥♥, ☺Mori♥Mamichan☺, ♀♀ Daisuki♥ ♀♀, ☺☺☺Watasan☺☺☺, Mickey
Music and Sound Effects (NES) Masahiko Ishida

Titles

Language Native Transliteration Translation
English Kickle Cubicle
Japanese 迷宮島 Meikyu Jima Labyrinth Island

Links

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