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Review

The Cub Review

The law of the jungle

Sequels are an integral part of the video game medium. For better or worse, we have seen and will continue to see countless follow-ups to long-running series for as long as interest and the almighty dollar allow. The general formula dictates that the sequel will build upon the features of its predecessor, adding a new mechanic, setting or character to bring you back into the fold. While not unheard of, seldom do we see a sequel take a drastic detour from what came before, and rarer still is a shift into a new genre. Revisiting the post-apocalyptic world of Golf Club: Nostalgia (formerly Golf Club: Wasteland), Demagog Studio’s platformer The Cub trades in the putters for parkour, all while expanding on the themes that came before.

Following the Great Ecological Catastrophe, Earth has become an uninhabitable jungle of irradiated flora and fauna, complete with unnaturally pink water and unbreathable air. While most of the planet’s population was left to die as the world collapsed and healed, the top 1% did what they do best, blamed everyone but themselves and took off, which in this case materialised as a colony on Mars.

Unbeknownst to the ultra-rich, who now spend their days dreaming of a time before pressurised metal boxes and views of the red planet, a small contingent of humanity mutated and survived. The titular Cub is one such pale-skinned survivor who was raised by wolves in the harsh environment they inherited. Not content with destroying the planet once, the white-collared Martian now use Earth as a private golf course, all while researching the effects of the apocalypse in hopes of one day returning. It’s this expedition that drives our young wolf cub into action, as a team of less than friendly researchers catch wind of his existence, leading to a chase through the ruins of civilisation.

Ahh, the world we left behind

Those who played Golf Club: Nostalgia will quickly recognise The Cub as the same boy our heroic club-wielding contemplator encountered late in that game, but no homework is necessary before jumping in here. In saying that, there is a beautiful narrative throughline that runs between the two that should be experienced, so whichever order you enjoy them in, I would recommend playing both.

To evade the puffy-suited pursuers, The Cub utilises their nimble speed and agility, able to run, double jump, swing and slide their way through the rubble and undergrowth. With a dash added in the later stages, The Cub’s platforming toolset is kept purposefully simple, as to emulate 90s classics like Aladdin, with decidedly fewer difficulty spikes. The various levels you explore during the game’s two-hour runtime are varied and clever in design, with forking paths offering choices at every turn and tantalisingly hiding collectables in plain sight.

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Controls are responsive and obstacles are almost universally placed with pinpoint accuracy, letting you chain together leaps and slides in one fluid motion. However, this isn’t a precision platformer. The Cub will often take a final step after you cease inputting a movement command, which isn’t a problem until a set piece calls for pixel-perfect accuracy. This clash between intent and execution left me frustrated on more than one occasion, stuck on a sequence and feeling like the game was working against me somewhat. Some less-than-forgiving checkpoints exacerbated the problem, but these moments were few, and I got back into the flow shortly thereafter.

The world reclaims all, but it still doesn’t want Zuck’s junk

As expected, Earth is far more beautiful without the human race screwing it up. Despite being more radioactive than Imagine Dragons, the world flourishes with lush greens and vibrant shades of red and pink that are now naturally occurring. This pairs excellently with the neon-lit vestiges of humanity that persist, showing that while the man-made catastrophe has forever changed the ecosystem, Earth lives on.

The stylistic art direction is warm and striking, and the slight stutter in characters’ movements further evokes the feeling of 90s platformers. Accompanying the beautiful visuals is Radio Nostalgia From Mars, a Martian radio station that The Cub can listen in to courtesy of a helmet they scavenged from a long-dead visitor. This holdover from Gold Club: Nostalgia is an ever-present audio delight that’s part storytelling device and part soundtrack.

When haunting, melodic tracks aren’t being broadcast, you’ll be listening to a presenter with a Triple J monotone voice expand the world’s lore, providing updates on the colony and check-ins with the research team hunting you down. Between sets, Martian citizens will also call in, regaling listeners with melancholic tales of the before times, reminiscing about life on Earth and the unattainable feelings and sensations that are now locked in the past. I found this to be a profoundly effective storytelling device when it was used in Gold Club: Nostalgia and now, with added context, it’s all the more powerful.

I feel like a candy wrapper, caught in an updraft

Final Thoughts

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I was completely enamoured with the bleak and beautiful world of Golf Club: Nostalgia. Just like the lone golfer, I wasn’t ready to leave when the credits rolled. The Cub may be a different game mechanically, but the feelings I was subjected to took me back to sinking birdies in a collapsed skyscraper. It may not be free of holes entirely, but the platforming is enjoyable, and the world is as alluring as ever. Whether you treat it as a sequel or a prequel, The Cub is inseparable from what came before, and both are worth experiencing.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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The Cub Review
Post Parkour-lyptic
Taking the world established within Gold Club: Nostalgia and pivoting to the platforming genre, The Cub is a continuation of a stunning visual style and a contemplative narrative that feels more topical than ever.
The Good
Beautiful visuals and stylistic design
Levels are well-designed and clever
A simple story underpinned by heavy themes
The radio provides the tunes and the feels
The Bad
Imprecise mechanics don’t mix with demanding set pieces
Certain checkpoints are a bit unforgiving
8
Get Around It
  • Demagog Studio
  • Untold Tales / Gamersky Games
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • January 20, 2024

The Cub Review
Post Parkour-lyptic
Taking the world established within Gold Club: Nostalgia and pivoting to the platforming genre, The Cub is a continuation of a stunning visual style and a contemplative narrative that feels more topical than ever.
The Good
Beautiful visuals and stylistic design
Levels are well-designed and clever
A simple story underpinned by heavy themes
The radio provides the tunes and the feels
The Bad
Imprecise mechanics don’t mix with demanding set pieces
Certain checkpoints are a bit unforgiving
8
Get Around It
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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