You, Me, and the Cubes - Blood On My Hands In Unknown Metaphors

Jake Spencer
09 April 2012

"Is it fun?" my sister interrupted as I described You, Me, and the Cubes to her.

"It's, um... Well, kind of, but that's not exactly... I mean, I really like it, but I don't know if it's, uh... Sort of. It's sort of fun, but it's also... It's so good, though!"

Here's the simple explanation: You, Me, and the Cubes is a puzzle game. Physics-based. There's a cube floating in space, and you have to add weight to it without disrupting the balance.

The very first stage requires only two weights balanced on a single cube. Simple. Complete that task, however, and a second cube is appended to the first. Now, rather than balancing weights on a single flat plane, you must balance more and more weights across increasingly complex three-dimensional shapes comprising multiple planes of various heights and sizes, all sharing a single balancing point.

You occasionally encounter cubes with special properties (bouncy cubes, cubes support a limited number of weights, etc.), but such twists are mere details. One concept drives this game: add weight; don't drop it.

That's the part that's fun. Adding weight and counterbalance to an unstable shape is intuitive, challenging, and addictive. Whether dressed up in detailed HD visuals or reduced to abstract geometric shapes (like the animated images above), that core balancing mechanic would still prey upon some base, order-craving instinct. You, Me, and the Cubes is fun on a fundamental level.

Look at any screenshot and you'll see a balance between detail and abstraction, visually. The background is black and the cubes are cubes, but the "weights" aren't weights - they're people. More than that - they're women and men.

They're abstractions - pink hair for women; blue for men - but in a void of black backgrounds and hazy boxes, the existence of not only people, but women and men, demands attention. It means something.

These people ("Fallos," the game calls them) don't passively land on the cubes and stay where you want them. They wander. They'll idly chit-chat. If one Fallo loses its balance and another is standing nearby, the standing Fallo will reach down to help. And if everything is just right, they'll fall in love.

And if they don't balance the cube, they'll fall into the abyss, and they will scream. They will scream in agony and abject terror. They will scream without hope for salvation, and you will watch their drop, helpless.

"Abstract Cube-Balancing Game" could exist on any platform, from PC to iPod. Just click your mouse or tap your stylus or press you finger where you want to add weight. You, Me, and the Cubes could only exist on Wii. Yes, you point where you want to aim your Fallos, but there's more: shake the Wii Remote twice to prepare a Fallo, take aim, press the A button, then throw your Fallo. The process takes maybe one second - exactly long enough to disrupt your aim and add a delay between throws - but requiring physical effort bonds player and Fallo. Each Fallo is your child.

That's what makes Pale Fallos so distressing. Pale Fallos are dastards and jerks. While the women and men are helping each other stand and falling in love, Pale Fallos knock them over the cube's edge. They're murderers, and they're your children.

When you shake the remote before a throw, you typically hear a pleasing chime. It signifies that you have a healthy son and daughter ready to help balance the cubes. Except sometimes you shake the remote and hear another sound. You hear a sound that fills you with dread, because while you were busy looking at the cubes and imagining where your perfect children would fit into the world, you were impregnating the Wii Remote with a pale, defective misfit.

As a physics-puzzle game, You, Me, and the Cubes is great fun, but that perspective only partially explains the appeal. The minimalist audio/visual presentation evokes as much dread as glee. The relief of completing a round barely offsets the fist-clenching tension it takes to make it that far.

You, Me, and the Cubes may play like a puzzle game, but beneath the surface lurks survival-horror and ambiguous metaphor. That combination might not equal "fun," but if you have an open mind and steady nerves, download this eerily beautiful WiiWare weirdo today.