The Cub – PS5 Review

The Cub by Serbian developer Demagog Studio and published by Untold Tales is described by them as challenging platform parkour inspired by those nails hard 90s era Sega platformers like The Jungle Book and Aladdin. In the wake of the ‘Great Ecological Catastrophe’ AKA the world going to shit, you control the titular cub. The style might be familiar to those who played Demagog’s 2021 Golf Club: Wasteland, as the same scenario and the main character from that also show up here.

In a plot loosely aping the Disney film rather than Rudyard Kipling’s literary work, the cub has been raised by wolves like yer man Mowgli and has developed immunity to the still-hostile environment. As the disaster unfolded, the rich and privileged decided that flying off to Mars was preferable to actually resolving the problems. Standard late-stage capitalism then. The world is lovingly rendered with a nice mixture of verdant landscapes interspersed with otherworldly mutations juxtaposed against the familiar.

Those that colonised Mars have come back to Earth with a view to perhaps returning permanently, though as we mentioned the environment has other ideas. Though once they clock the child has immunity, they see capturing him as the key to figuring out immunity. It’s a bit of a mulligan to be honest, but it keeps the plot moving along.

You find a colonist’s abandoned helmet, evidently from a prior failed survey as all that’s left is their weathered skeleton and an environmental suit that wasn’t up to the job. This introduces a nice feature, that admittedly is a bit of a contrivance, but it works in context. You’ll soon hear the dulcet tones of a radio DJ keeping the colonists on Mars entertained, but also gently dripfeeding backstory to you.

As well as backstory and general chit-chat, there’s also some excellent music. Early on there’s a Leonard Cohen-esque tune called The Son of No-One, that also happens to be one of the game’s eight chapter titles. It’s all very well done.

One thing that’s unusual for games of this sort, there’s no combat. It’s you against the mutated flora and fauna. Additionally, you have to evade the colonists who want to capture you. They resort to tranquiliser darts and remotely deployed snares to begin with. In one set piece one of them even resorts to trying to grab you in a net.

You’ll get caught on occasion, usually when you snag on a bit of scenery or are a little slow climbing a ledge. This highlights a bit of a flaw when you reload from the prior checkpoint. If you’re in the middle of a chase sequence, your assailant will be on you as soon as you reload. It’s a bit annoying that there’s no short grace period.

There some things that hark back to 90s platformers. A bloody minecart stage for a start. We hated them on the SNES and we still hate them now. The autoscrolling drone stage where you’re evading missiles is bedevilled by some slightly annoying collision detection too.

Another issue that struck us as a fundamental problem that shouldn’t really have come to light in a platforming game of all things. The platforming itself can be maddeningly inconsistent. This comes to light especially when you’re traversing the side of a building by jumping on external air conditioning units. You can go from surefooted to baby giraffe in the space of seconds and find yourself falling to your death. It’s very frustrating. The aforementioned drone stage is another annoyance, though thankfully it’s fairly brief. Innovative it isn’t, more a throwback if we’re honest.

As you explore the wreckage of Alphaville and its environs, you’ll happen upon various artifacts from before the fall. These include voice logs that flesh out the narrative and publications among others as well as talking teddy bears. They start out all cute and cuddly, eventually getting more cynical and jaded. There are also televisions that you can switch on to watch short vignettes, though quite where they get their power from isn’t exactly clear. The collectibles aren’t massively off the beaten track if you’re looking to hoover them up and garner the associated trophy either.

Demagog obviously don’t have much love for big US firms, with multiple obvious digs at that glorified bookstore named after a river as well as at other corporations.

We were grateful for there being no penalty for dying, though one trophy is for completing a level without succumbing. We’ve yet to identify whether it is one particular level you have to do this on, as the trophy description is a little vague. There’s also another that mentions you evading a particular colonist, only his name doesn’t crop up. We guess it’s the guy with the tranq darts as the unlocks in the trophy list are chronologically ordered as per the storyline.

In conclusion, The Cub is a fun enough, if brief, little diversion. The platforming is a little frustrating at times and we’re glad we’ll never have to play that minecart level again. The music and narration are very well done, though don’t think too hard about the plot, as the conclusion is a bit of a reach.

The Cub
6 Overall
+ Nice post-apocalyptic landscape
+ Excellent music and narration
+ Collectibles aren’t too onerous
- Some platforming can be fussy
- That minecart level
- Plot inconsistencies
The Cub is a fair platformer with a great sense of place. The plot loosely follows the Jungle Book but comes to a conclusion somewhat bafflingly. The platforming is generally alright though jumping is maddeningly inconsistent at times. Over its brief lifespan you’re likely to be entertained by it for the most part.


About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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