There is always a debate about whether gaming is art raging somewhere. I think it is, or can be, and Cuccchi is a game that blurs the two worlds. Taking the art of Enzo Cucchi, it places 51 of his drawings into a fever dream maze. It is a playable art gallery and one of the most unique gaming experiences I’ve seen for a while.
Each level has a vague theme. It could be visiting surreal biomes in space, walking the desert, floating through a ball of colours or seeing giant statues of heads vomiting skulls. It’s all over the place and that’s a large part of Cuccchi’s draw. You never quite know what to see next. The 2D paintings from Enzo have been scanned into the game a digitalised like paper craft (think Parappa). As you turn, the world rotoscopes around you in a weird 360 camera style that bends and warps the images to make things feel weirder still. It’s a low poly, almost PS1 hand drawn vibe and it won’t please everyone with how pixelated art becomes as you run through it all. Add to that a synthy, almost vaporwave soundtrack from Skinned Lizard and Cuccchi feels like the oddest art installation to grace PC ad consoles ever.
You can collect each of the pictures for a gallery mode to be found in the menu. This involves finding and collecting eyes scattered around the levels. Most of them aren’t too hard to find and you don’t need to find them all at once. The real issue with Cuccchi is that you then have to escape levels through a very poorly thought out maze stalked by skulls. The Skulls if they touch you, eat an eye and when you are out of eyes its game over and back to the start of the level. These mazes sometimes hurt the eyes but they invariably place skulls in positions that mean you get trapped either ends of a corridor. When you do make it out with all eyes intact, its through luck more than skill. It’s not enjoyable at all.
This jarring disconnect from a world where pigs literally fly means in later levels, you aren’t able to just enjoy the world you are in. It’s Cuccchi’s main selling point but as skulls no longer stay in mazes – some levels you have to avoid them at all times. I had to rush through those levels and that feels at complete odds with how art like this should be consumed. Thankfully the controls to move in Cuccchi are serviceable so floating or running away is easily done.
Ultimately, I’m really glad a game like this is made. Whilst the gaming elements of it are poorly thought out and designed, being able to play an art gallery is a great concept. I’d like to see more things like this in future. As such, the game is really unscorable because art is so subjective and Cuccchi wears its pretention as a badge of honour. Your mileage will greatly vary but I’m a champion of these abstract ideas.
Review code provided by publisher.
Practically unscorable due to its art-as-a-game concept but I'm glad games like this exist even if they will be marmite.
Surreal visuals make every level a 'what on Earth is this?!' discovery.
Unusual soundtrack adds to the mood.
The mazes are poor and infuriating.
Often has a strange balance of wanting to explore and live in the art but the skulls stop you enjoying the moment.
Sometimes rotating yourself around in the game spins all the art around so quickly it can make you a bit queasy if you don't have good sea legs.
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