When tackling a new game for the first time, I typically find myself comparing it to past experiences. Should I find myself fighting through a new shooter, I'll compare it to titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield or Team Fortress 2. These games share similar mechanics, but differ greatly in the long run. That's why I was so surprised the first time I played Ubinota. I knew something was off, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Three whimsical hours later, and I finally realized what it was; Ubinota is a modern puzzle game that screams N64 for a new generation.
The art and animation styles of Ubinota pay homage to the late '90s and early 2000s while introducing more present day gameplay elements. You quickly learn that a race of people live among the clouds using the help of magic plants from a wizard. However, the world's color is starting to fade, and it's your job to repaint the blocks, so that everyone's homes don't come plummeting from the sky. The game starts out simple, with players painting a couple of simple lines in a two-dimensional view. The difficulty gradually increases from there, eventually to extremely challenging levels.
The game is relatively easy to begin with, but that's just the devs over at Rotateam being extra friendly. I can't tell you how many times I've played a puzzle game that has started out pretty simple, but by the fifth level it required super focus and expert mastery. Rotateam does a fantastic job at easing you into the game, which, in my opinion, says more about them than the game itself.
Ubinota's simple controls establish a 90's vibe for the new generation. You hold, right-click and drag to change perspective, and then left-click to either paint or erase. While the UI features well-designed elements, it's obtrusive. The interface is much larger than needed for the size of most modern monitors. It's almost as if Rotateam started making Ubinota for an iPad and changed their mind during development. That being said, if they did release it for the iPad, I'd buy it again.
There are a few things that Ubinota gets wrong. For one, it would be nice to have a reset button for each color. At the very least, they should include the ability to restart the level. The game offers basic check boxes instead of sliders. Throw in the default "Master Volume," "Music Volume" and "Sound Volume" sliders, and they'll be set. These minor complaints can be easily addressed with an update.
Ubinota has its ups and downs, but the good blows away the bad. Ubinota brings with it some beautiful water-color artwork that is both whimsical and imaginative. Every puzzle is unique. Ubinota stands out while still appealing to a sense of familiarity. Now here's to hoping they release a version for my iPad.
Preview by: Mike Ackerman | Previewed on: PC