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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (41494)
Written on  :  Jul 11, 2020
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Irem's excellent attempt at breaking away from the "shmup" genre

The Good

Japanese giant Irem has made some great shoot-em-ups in the past, and R-Type was one of these. They have dabbled into other genres even before the 1987 classic, but their previous attempts didn't get past the arcades. Their next non-shmup was a cute puzzle game called Kickle Cubicle, in which the central character bears a striking resemblance to Dizzy. I guess the game wasn’t as popular, given that the game only received a port to the Nintendo NES, yet this was the sort of game that could have made its way on other platforms, particularly MSX and TG-16.

The front cover for the game is quite colorful showing Kickle hovering over most of the enemies you meet in the game. The enemies are in front of the palaces each game boss is in. These palaces take on various forms, including an apple tree and birthday cake. The twenty-page manual that comes with the game also sports a colorful front as well. The story is rather interesting as well.

Upon starting the game, you also have the option of continuing where you left off, by entering a eight-letter password which takes the form of an entry in "Kickle's Diary". The password for each stage is revealed by selecting the "Password" option at the game over screen.

Kickle Cubicle is spread across four lands that make up the Fantasy Kingdom. The lands were turned into ice, and its inhabitants imprisoned in red Dream Bags. The player's goal, then, is to solve puzzles and recover these bags. Kickle encounters enemies unique to each land. These enemies have their own attacks, but Kickle is armed with his freezing breath, which is helpful for turning Noggles - the main enemies - into ice cubes which can be pushed into water to create new ice blocks, allowing you to walk over them. Kickle also has the ability to create ice pillars on the block he is facing, blocking any enemies or obstacles that get in his way.

When players collect all the Dream Bags, Kickle will find himself hovering over the stage while the stage sinks in the body of water, and the freed inhabitants circling around him. There is a bit of dialogue that takes place here, as well as when you are about to encounter the boss inside the palaces. Each boss have similar attack patterns; they are a much bigger version of the usual enemy that simply runs around and tries to crush you with an item. After conquering all four lands, not only do players get to see the ending, but they also get access to 30 "special stages", which are much harder than the others.

I like how the first land is easy, allowing new players to get used to the game. Initially it's only a matter of turning Noggles into ice cubes and using these to make new platforms. But later, there will be a lot more involved as Kickle will need to deal with other obstacles like hammers and springs.

The graphics in the game are colorful as the front cover, with good animations and well-designed sprites. Some stages take the form of an object, like a fruit or one of the characters in the game. A map is displayed between stages, showing how far you are away from the final stage. Sound-wise, the background music is the same for all four lands, but it doesn't get boring. Unlike its arcade counterpart, this music is fast-paced. When you finish a stage, you won't hear Kickle celebrating victory. This is reasonable, given that the NES isn't up to scratch.

The Bad

There is nothing bad about this game.

The Bottom Line

In this game, you control Kickle, a cute snowman wearing earmuffs, who sets out to restore the Fantasy Kingdom after it has been turned into ice by the Wizard King. To do this, he has to deal with various enemies and obstacles, and solve a lot of puzzles. Graphics and sound is excellent, and it is easy for new players to get into the game. The difficult nature of the game ramps up as you progress through it. Although the game could have included a simultaneous, two-player option, Kickle Cubicle is an excellent, overlooked title that deserves to be worth your time if you own a NES.