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The Cub Review

The Cub
Screenshot: GameSpew

Have you played Golf Club Nostalgia (or Golf Club Wasteland, as it was known at launch)? If so, you might find The Cub strangely familiar. You see, it’s set in the same world: an apocalyptic Earth, left to ruin while humans have instead colonised Mars. While Golf Club Nostalgia saw the wreckage of the planet being used as a golfing playground for the rich and famous, The Cub takes an altogether different approach: it focuses on the children left behind, raising themselves as creatures of the Earth.

Take away the golfing element, and there are lots of similarities between the two games. They both play out on a 2D, side-scrolling plane, sporting the same eye-catching hand-drawn art style. They’re both backed with radio chatter and an excellent soundtrack, doing a fantastic job of adding atmosphere and emotion to the proceedings. Listen to the radio DJ who occasionally pipes up as you play The Cub and you’ll get a deeper understanding of the story and the world you find yourself in.

The titular ‘cub’ is a child who has been left to fend for himself as most humans abandoned Earth for Mars. It seems, however, that explorers from Mars, coming back to Earth to assess its suitability for recolonisation, have caught wind that he exists. Where Earth’s atmosphere is no longer hospitable to humans, the cub can breathe without aid, having adapted to the new, hostile environment. He’s of serious interest to the human scientists, then, who want to capture him to study.

The Cub
Screenshot: GameSpew

And so, most of your time with The Cub becomes a cat-and-mouse chase as you sneak past, run away from and otherwise avoid capture from these unrelenting explorers. This isn’t a long game – you’ll be done in roughly three hours – but it means the platforming action never lets up, and it never outstays its welcome. It feels well paced, with a nice mixture of gameplay: one minute you’ll be swinging from vine to vine, the next you’ll be hiding in tents, avoiding your potential captors. Or maybe you’ll be flying through the sky on a jetpack or jumping along the backs of wild buffalo.

Related: The Best Platformer Games on PS5

However, there are a few frustrating sections in The Cub that require a bit of trial and error to get right: there’s the odd tricky jump that you just can’t quite get right or a stealth section that doesn’t seem as smooth as it should be. But thanks to generous checkpointing, you’ll never have to backtrack too far when you do fail, keeping real grievances to a minimum.

The Cub
Screenshot: GameSpew

Our favourite aspect of The Cub comes when we’re given the freedom to explore the world a little without fear of being pursued. There are numerous collectibles to be picked up here that come in different forms – you’ll find newspaper clippings, videos, USB drives containing emails, luxury items, “burps” (typically fizzy drinks) and teddy bears. While the sections of buildings you can roam in which to seek them out are never very big, they provide a greater context of the ruined world you find yourself in. We’d have loved to be able to explore more, but as it is, The Cub is well-paced between these slower sections and more energetic chase sequences.

Short but entertaining, there’s a lot to like with The Cub. Its post-apocalyptic world is fascinating, and getting to collect numerous artefacts gives good reason to poke around off the beaten path when you’re given the opportunity. The platforming here is fun and varied, mixing up fast-paced running-and-jumping with more measured stealth sections. Sure, there’s the odd frustration – but that comes with the territory of 2D platforming. This is a fun way to spend a few hours – particularly if you enjoyed the atmosphere of Golf Club Nostalgia.


The Cub Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of The Cub is based on the PS5 version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Switch and PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.