by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Ugh! Another tower defence game.
Yep, that’s right...Cubemen is another in a long line of Tower Defence games. As with most tower defence games, you are tasked with defending your base from the waves of enemy attackers eager to end your existence. There is no story to speak of, so I will just get right into the gameplay, shall I?
At your disposal are a number of cubemen who you can position to quell the oncoming horde. Of course, not all are available right from the get go. Those with better weapons and greater protection must be earned through the collection of Cubes. Cubes are earned by destroying oncoming attackers, with allocation being determined by the quality of the attackers. Pawn-like attackers with no weapons are assigned one cube, whilst the all-powerful giant sized attacker score eight cubes. Once you gain enough Cubes, the options for cubemen become available. In all, there are seven different cubemen to choose from, each with distinct weapons including one with mortar rounds, one with homing rockets, one with a laser gun and even a medic.
As well as the Cubes gained from eliminating enemy attackers, you also score points. Multipliers are scored for destroying successive enemies. This can be a double edged sword because often, to score more points you need more attackers in play at once. This can be counter-intuitive to completing the level easily by placing your defenders in a way that they can simply pick off the enemies one at a time. Once the level is complete though, (either by destroying all the waves or by dying) a score is registered on the online leader boards. This adds a certain amount of replay to the game as you want to improve on your score to jump up the rankings. There are multiple game modes to make the game even more challenging and interesting. There is a mode where you have limited units in play, another where you have a set number of Cubes to spend but don’t earn any more and another called Sudden Death where you only have one life as opposed to the usual ten lives.
Despite the game’s simplicity, the levels can often be deviously difficult. Even some of the novice levels proved a challenge on more than one occasion, until I found the right combination of cubemen to defend my tower with and placement of those units. With the various attackers, it takes time to work out which of your defenders are best suited to defending, especially against certain elevated positions.
Multiplayer games, either against an online human opponent (which at times can be difficult to find) or the computer controlled AI, are a heap of fun. Of course, human competition is generally tougher than the AI. In the Multiplayer Skirmish game, players are tasked not only with defending their own tower, but must help their own waves of attackers to reach the enemy tower. These waves of attackers are pre-determined and both players have identical attacking forces, so that there is no disadvantage to either player.
Just so square
For those of you who are into eye-candy, please look away now. Cubemen contains old-school graphics that make the game feel like it could have straight out to the early 90’s. Of course, with a name like Cubemen, this would seem entirely as intended. The games characters somewhat resemble mono-coloured robots, similar to the child’s boxing toy of yesteryear, one red and one blue. The colour scheme is the same in Cubemen, where your defenders are blue and the enemy is red (except in multiplayer where you could be the red team). Apart from the blue and red of the combatants, the remainder of the game is rather sterile. The game board is a maze of grey squares early on, whilst later levels bring a 3D effect which makes the game board look like a city of white skyscrapers. Yes, it is all rather bland, but everything is well laid out and is free from clutter, making it easy to determine what is happening in the game at any point.
The audio is also not overly grand. The background music is nice though. It’s not overpowering, but gets you into the mood. The electronic tones combined with the brass instrument solo fits in rather well with the style of the game. It does tend to get a little monotonous after awhile, but this is probably the not the sort of game that you will be playing for hours on end anyway. The sound effects are standard fare with laser sounds being the loudest of the effects apart from a trumpet heralding your victory.
The simple controls make the game run extremely smoothly. Many of the levels will require a semi-constant rotation of the game board to enable the best view of the proceedings, but this is a simple procedure. And it isn’t like a simple tower defence. Your cubemen defenders can be moved into positions which you think may better suit each wave of enemy attackers by simply selecting them and their required position. Games can be played with just the mouse, making it extremely easy.
The sum of all cubes are greater than the individual cubes
OK… so Cubemen has antiquated visuals, has run of the mill audio, is in a genre that is over-populated, but it is still a fun game to play. With presently around 30 maps to play in standard mode, gamers will need plenty of time to get through them all. Then of course, the leader boards will encourage competitive gamers to replay the levels to gain higher scores. And after that there is the multiplayer skirmish mode that acts like part tower defence, part RTS. And the developer is constantly making improvements and adding levels to the game and can often be found in the Steam forums helping out gamers with issues they have been having. I’m not sure you will get that from the big developers. With that in mind for five bucks, Cubemen is a worthy purchase.
Competing against other gamers (either directly or on the score charts) is a heap of fun
Visually, the game is almost out of the 8-bit era (though, that is as intended)