They're not super well known, but I've been a fan of Dutch developer Two Tribes since I played one of their earliest releases, Toki Tori for Game Boy Color. They're masters of puzzle games, so even though I didn't know much about their release Rubik's World for DS (aka Rubik's Puzzle World) and even though I'm not a fan at all of Rubik's Cubes in general, I was still looking forward to giving it a closer look. (Bit of trivia for you: apparently the Rubik's Cube "is widely considered to be the world's best-selling toy",)

Anyway, the game on DS isn't to be confused with Rubik's World for Wii, which Two Tribes also developed and which has some of the same content. Both games feature a group of different modes, all centered around "Cubies", the name they've given to the anthropomorphized blocks that make up a Rubik's Cube. Yeah, it's a bit of a stretch, but it's as good a unifying theme to the varied modes as any, I suppose. Rubik's World on DS has eight different modes. The first one is solving Rubik's Cubes, either the original 3x3x3 size, or a smaller 2x2x2 size, or a larger version. This mode also includes a reverse solve mode where you're tasked with reproducing a given scrambled Cube pattern from a completed Cube to start, and a tutorial on solving Rubik's Cubes which I tried to work through, but which I had to give up on because it seemed to completely gloss over whole steps. (FYI, this tutorial on the Rubik Cube's official site is much more in depth and useful.)

Next up, there's a basic music mode where you can create and save up several tracks, and which you can then use to replace the win or lose jingles that play in the other modes. There's also a little drawing mode where you assemble three dimensional cubes into two dimensional images that also get used to decorate the main menu. Both of these are nice touches and minor diversions, but the main draw to the game is really the puzzle modes.

I'd actually played the successor to one of these modes on Switch, the one that became Swap This!. I found it to be a decent but not great little puzzle game on Switch, and it's pretty much the same here but without the variations on the core gameplay. This is a match-3 type of game where you swap pieces of the same color to make blocks disappear. In this version you're always swapping a piece on the board with a piece that you're holding, which is a slight twist on the usual mechanics and one that takes a little getting used to. The game is also more unique than the average match-3 game in that the goal isn't to just make matches, but to do them in such a way that you cause a section of the board to become detached and fall off. This is a satisfying core mechanic, but once you've gotten the hang of it there's not a whole lot to it and not really any motivation to chase for a higher score.

There are two other puzzle modes that are much more satisfying, though. Both of them are Sokoban-style puzzles, i.e. box-pushing puzzles like the ones in classic Zelda games. In one you're guiding blocks to the exit. Blocks travel in a straight line when you set them in motion, but soon you'll have to make use of Chu Chu Rocket-like devices that change their direction or rotate them, etc. (Apparently this mode saw new life in Two Tribes' Steam release called RUSH.) The second mode, called "Color", has a similar concept, except in this case the focus is on coloring the 8 sides of the cubes. When a side comes into contact with a side of another block that's the same color, the two stick together, and this leads to some very mind-bendy and satisfying puzzles. This mode is the most Rubik's Cube-like game of the bunch as it forces you to plan ahead and focus on which side of a cube needs to be which color after it's been rotated multiple times, which may be a particular draw for some. The main drawback to both of these modes is that you have to use the stylus to switch between Cubies, when it would have been so much more convenient to be able to use the L or R buttons, or even the D pad.

The third main puzzle mode is called "Fit", and this is a "Cubie" take on the "human Tetris" type of game show shenanigans. In this case you're presented with a bunch of squares that you have to rearrange to fit within the target hole shape. Along with matching the shape of the hole, you need to rearrange the extraneous pieces so that they fit within specified safe area on the sides. What makes this mode actually a puzzle game is that you can only move certain squares to certain positions. Basically those mechanics are very similar to Mahjong in that you can only move the squares on the edges. Each stage of this mode is timed and is made up of a sequence of shapes, and although the mechanics are very clever and the mode is actually very enjoyable once you wrap your head around it, it would have been so much better if it were presented as individual levels with medals for best times rather than a sequence of levels. It's annoying to repeatedly have to replay the first four parts of a stage just to repeatedly fail on the last one, and the pressure of the clock seems antithetical to the general vibe of puzzle games in general.

Those three main puzzle modes all come with 40 normal difficulty and 40 hard difficulty puzzles each (plus a handful of tutorial puzzles), so there's definitely plenty of content here for puzzle fans. The last puzzle mode is called "Calculate", and although it's the simplest of the bunch, it's still enjoyable. In it you're presented with two simple math equations whose answers will be a number 1 through 10, and then you input the answer as a point on a 10x10 grid. The game fills in lines and shapes based on the coordinates you select, and it's satisfying to see the pixel image gradually get filled in, much like how designs gradually get filled in with a Picross puzzle. This mode has some notable downsides, however. For one, every other level seems to be just a bunch of random shapes that don't actually make a picture, which is disappointing. Another is that although it supposedly keeps track of your skill level (and adds more math operations to the calculations to complete), it inexplicably doesn't let you go back to previous levels to retry them to improve your performance, and it doesn't give any sort of indication of how many levels there are, which as a result made me lose interest in continuing with it further.

Overall this is a nice little package for puzzle fans, if just for the two main modes. There are some baffling design choices, particularly for "Fit" and "Calculate", and although at the time Game Informer gave it quite a positive review, most other reviewers seemed to find the collection a bit disjoint and confusing. It definitely takes some time for a lot of these modes to click, but once they do this is definitely worth the few bucks it would cost to pick up a copy. Two Tribes has officially retired from making new games, but remakes seem to be the loophole that is letting them continue to put out new content. It would be great to see them dip back into the well of this collection, as many of these game mechanics are still fresh and fun, and the clever puzzle designs really deserve a wider audience. Here's hoping!

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