Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: May 29, 2013
ESRB: N/A (E suggested)
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
What“s hot these days in the indie gaming community? It seems that the biggest genres are platformers, tower defense, and horror. While there“s nothing wrong with this, it does get pretty dull after a while. Tower defense in particular seems a hard place to innovate with. In turn, most games choose to change up aesthetics but provide very little different gameplay-wise. I say all this because of recently coming across a game that does innovate the tower defense genre and does so well. That title is Cubetractor!
The main premise of Cubetractor“s play is not defending some sort of base against marauding invaders. Instead, you create towers in order to destroy towers that the opponent has set up for each level. They are not continually unleashing new towers or enemies, however, which means the layout of a level at the beginning is not set to change. As a player, all you have to do is figure out the best method to destroy everything of the enemy“s and put that plan into action.
Formulating strategies to best decimate enemy critters and towers is easy at the beginning but becomes much more challenging as time goes on. Spanning 40 levels, you“ll likely bang your head against the wall on more than one occasion. At least the mechanics are simple enough to handle. Basically, the player pulls cubes in straight lines. When two cubes match up, they turn into a tower, power generator, or wall. What they turn into is dependent on the types of blocks that collide. There aren“t too many so it“s easy to recall what combinations yield the object you need.
Much of the puzzle solving each level comes from where blocks are placed. Your power as a small blue bot is simply to pull cubes. It cannot pick them up and move them to a more suitable position but can only pull them vertically or horizontally from their origin. This means your choices are severely limited to connecting that block with others that lie along the same path. Not only that, but you must make sure you build things near enough to enemy towers to have shots reach. Oh, and of course, to make sure that your towers are protected from enemy fire so their work gets destroyed instead of yours.
Cubetractor becomes incredibly difficult the longer you play but is addicting enough to push players through. The addictive factor comes from the fact that the mechanics are so simple. Players can formulate ideas but they simply need to put them into action successfully. This is made difficult because enemy fire is never going to lay off even if you need to carefully place a tower. Pulling blocks itself requires timing - as does dodging shots - so you need to be conscious of both tasks at once.
As you might expect, controls need to be in perfect working order for this kind of gameplay to work out. Unfortunately, controlling your little bot isn“t perfect. For whatever reason, there are times that it won“t respond to your action to pull a block. This seems to occur most often when trying to pull two blocks in rapid succession. It“s annoying as the failure to pull a second often means a block is hurtling straight into your bot“s face and you may not be able to get out of the way in time. Or, at the very least, it will fly off until hitting a wall and then you have to wait for a new block to spawn. Either way, it“s a small issue which will bother players from time to time.
For as difficult as the game becomes, it has an incredibly cute and unassuming visual style. The pixelated world is shown from a top down perspective which gives you a good view of the layout. Colorful towers, ponds, and grass fill the screen and make the world look quite cute. The cutest of all is the robot you control which appears to have a bright red smile affixed to the front. The aesthetic is very attractive and makes you assume the game is easy when it definitely isn“t.
Whether you play through the main missions only or also take on the sidequests, you“ll be presented with challenges to (possibly) fulfill. Each level scores you on factors of time taken, damage suffered by bot, and how many batteries you pick up. There is no requirement to meet any of these goals but if you do you get a higher star ranking. This adds a draw for players who simply need to give themselves the maximum challenge possible.
Overall, it seems that Cubetractor is a deviously tough puzzle game wrapped in a cute package. Those who are willing to work through dozens of puzzles will like this title and may even shoot for perfect rankings on each stage. The simplicity is appealing and is worth checking out if you like tower defense or puzzle games and want to try something different from the norm.
+ Great deal of levels of increasing challenge
+ Lovely visuals and music
+ Ability to retry and obtain better rankings on levels
- Controls do not perform as well as they need to
- No difficulty selector means this game will go unfinished by many
Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10)
Cubetractor is a game with simple play mechanics but smartly designed puzzles that will make you scratch your head before inspiration finally strikes.