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Throwback Thursday: In Cubation

In Cubation Review

In Cubation Review

It played very smoothly, was challenging, and I liked it. Did I mention that it’s freeware?


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Developed by


Genre: Puzzle, Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: 2007

Note: This review was originally published October 5, 2007 

“The mystery begins in a blinding flash of white light that transports you into the alien world of the Cubes. Your first instinct is to escape as quickly as possible.”

Adventure gaming in the Internet age is presenting the reviewer with a new conundrum. The implied rationale for any review is to inform readers if the entity under consideration is worth their money. Yet, how do you judge something that costs nothing? In particular, how do you criticize something that’s given away free? Isn’t this the digital version of looking a gift horse in the mouth? Well, yes. In this case the reviewer’s job switches from saving your money to saving your time. Is this game worth playing? Does it hold your interest to the end?

In Cubation is an independently developed point-and-click adventure game that’s free to anyone with the time or the superfast internet connection to download it. The Win 2000 installer app clocks in at a still fairly whopping 223 megabytes. It took me, with my state-of-the-art 56k modem, about fifteen hours to land. Was it worth it? Well, read on, Macduff.

The production company is something called New Phaze Development, LLC. In perusing its website I do get the feeling that this is a real web concern that has just produced an adventure game for the fun of it. The website refers to “us” and “we” but as far as I can tell the only human being connected with the production of this game is a fellow by the name of Edward C. Zeglen III. The game is subtitled a “Z3 Production,” and I think it is fairly safe to assume that the Z3 here refers to Mr. Zeglen III himself. That means In Cubation is yet another one-person enterprise. I still find this amazing. This same game would have taken a major gaming house about a year to produce a decade ago. Now, extremely talented and dedicated people such as Mr. Zeglen can turn out one of these things in their spare time. (Probably lots and lots of “spare” time, but even so.) The widely available tools for making adventure games have gotten so powerful and sophisticated that they basically replicate a couple of floors of Sierra On-line circa 1995 in a box.

I admit I had a little trouble installing the game, but I suspect this is because of my rather bizarre computer setup. I downloaded it on a Mac, burned the app to a CD and installed it from there onto my PC. Somewhere along the line, I confused the hell out of the installer because the shortcut in my start menu led to the installer not the game.exe file. Once I started the game from the .exe itself I had no further problems from that quarter. My computer also fell well short of the recommended system requirements. I ran it on Windows 98SE with a 600 mhz processor and 128 megs of RAM and a 64- MEG graphics card. (Okay, you can all stop snickering now; those same specs have gotten me through a startling number of recent adventure games.)

Which, at long last, brings us to the game itself. It played very smoothly, was challenging and I liked it. Did I mention that it’s freeware?

I think if anyone has any objections to this well-made gift from Mr. Zeglen to the worldwide adventure community it will be because the game is no walk in the park, and because the park itself is reminiscent of a little island named Myst.

In Cubation is not a Myst clone per se. For one thing, there are no trees in this park. But it definitely walks the same axis line with the Cyan games and other brain-bruisers like Rhem I and II. In short, you land in a strange complex of chambers connected by long green tubes and the only way to get anywhere is to find and solve logic problems. As in Myst and Rhem, most of these problems do not fall into the, “Well, let’s see if I just fiddle with the controls here for a minute and maybe I’ll get lucky” category. No, you’re going to have to take notes. You’re going to have to be very observant. And if you’re color blind, you may have big problems. You’re actually going to have to think your way through about half the puzzles in this game.  Which perhaps raises the question of how on earth I ever got through them. Persistence, mostly. Never underestimate sheer dogged determination in solving any adventure game puzzle. And because the puzzles are indeed logical, you could say they’re figure-out-able. One thing everyone will rejoice to hear is there is little-to-no pixel-hunting.

I suppose the adventure game community is now irretrievably split between those who love games like Myst and those who don’t. There are no dialog trees in In Cubation either. There are no NPCs to talk to. There isn’t even that much area to explore. If you don’t like sweating your way through logic puzzles, you won’t like this game. Did I mention that it’s freeware?

What if we suppose that In Cubation did cost money? What shortcomings could one point out? Well, by commercial standards, the game is not terribly long. The graphics are expert, but they won’t knock your socks off. There’s a fair amount of sameness as you progress through those pipes. The music ,in my opinion, is also fine. No, wait: there is no music, just something labled “ambient sound.” This is okay by me. Not only does music increase the size of the download in a game such as this, it also increases the load on the processor. More to the point, when I’m squeezing every last drop of gray matter out of my brain trying to solve a puzzle, I’m not particularly observant of the soundtrack anyway. It could be Beethoven’s long lost tenth symphony and I’d never notice. The sound effects, on the other hand, are not only well done but, more importantly, helpful.

The main course here is the puzzles. Some are variations on ones you’ve wrestled with before. A few were new to me, or seemed so. I have always been a fan of the logic puzzle that has been executed in space. For some reason, running around a bunch of corridors pulling switches, then dashing back to observe the results is far more engaging to me than doing the exact same logic problem on a sheet of paper. I think that, in many ways, is the great legacy of Myst. You actually, physically enter into the puzzle and become part of it, similar to running around inside a Rube Goldberg contraption. Mr. Zeglen does a very good job of that here.

Even better, Mr. Z is planning to release a “sequel and continuation” to In Cubation in 2008.

So how does all this translate into a letter grade? I am going to give In Cubation an A minus. Is this judging it somewhat on the bell curve of a non-commercial production? Sure. On the other hand, in case you hadn’t noticed, most of the big commercial gamemakers have stopped producing adventure games. Which only makes me all the more grateful to people like Mr. Zeglen who have so expertly picked up the dropped baton.

Did I mention that In Cubation is freeware?

Grade: A-
System Requirements
Windows 2000/XP
128MB Video Card
Pentium 4  2.3 GHz 
250MB Drive Space
Microsoft XML Version 6
Windows Media Player 9 

Greg Collins

Greg Collins

JA reviewer, and occasional opiner, since 2006.

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