Reviewed by Jacob Spindel, February 2008
Have you checked the selection of puzzle games at your local video game store lately? “Tetris.” “Super Tetris.” “Tater Tetris.” “Emerald Tetris Nano 3 Meets Pac-Man Remix Lite.” It’s just not that often that a truly original idea for a puzzle game comes along. Cube for PSP is one such attempt at an original puzzle idea, but, as evidenced by the endless clones of previous successful games, ensuring that a new puzzle idea is actually entertaining and addictive is not easy. While it certainly isn’t the next “Tetris,” Cube is a unique idea that is likely to hold your attention for at least a little while.
As you may have guessed, you play as a cube. It’s not really any sort of living thing or character - it’s just a regular cube. In each level, your goal is to get from the beginning to the end; if you reach the goal before time runs out, you will progress to the next level. Unfortunately, there are a variety of other inanimate objects along your path just waiting to bomb you, shoot you, sink you, or trap you. By redirecting bombs or rearranging items, you can find a safe path to the exit in each level.
These objects come in a huge variety of types. Besides bombs and their direction controllers, you’ll find movable blocks, fans, block cloners, switches, disappearing blocks, and more. The game has a training mode that covers all of these items, but once you are playing the main game, there is no way to access any help or documentation, which puts you back at risk of becoming confused or discouraged.
One of the strongest aspects of the game is simply its addictivity. Each level is quick enough, and usually straightforward enough, that it’s easy to find yourself playing just one more time... and then one more after that... and then maybe 12 more times after that. However, the game could’ve been even more addictive if it could detect when you have made too many mistakes to be able to finish a level and automatically make you restart the level, instead of leaving you to figure it out yourself.
There are three tiers of levels (Easy, Medium, and Hard), and each tier has three zones of 15 levels each, for a total of 135 levels. If you would like an even greater challenge, you can try to earn a “Gold” rating in each level by collecting every key and beating an even stricter time limit. The game also offers a level editor and a two-player mode, so you’re virtually guaranteed to have enough content to satisfy you for as long as the game holds your attention.
Cube’s graphics and sounds make it feel a bit like it was written 10 years ago and has been sitting in a time capsule ever since. The game is successful at what it attempts: The various simple objects interacting with each other in three dimensions all look the way you’d expect. However, what the game attempts graphically is just not very much. While many modern games use only polygons to simulate complex, detailed characters with carefully choreographed movements, Cube uses only polygons to simulate... polygons.
One part of the graphics that isn’t so successful is the camera angle. Although the camera usually gives you a view that looks nice, it is often not the most useful point of view for what you are doing. Traps can become hard to spot because of the angles the camera chooses, and this can be frustrating. You can manually adjust the camera using the PSP’s analog stick, but once you’ve done this, even the slightest movement usually causes the camera to whip back to its “automatic” location. Ultimately, the camera angle spends more time fighting you than helping you.
Cube’s sound is also not especially ambitious. Bombs and other objects make simple explosion and collision sounds, while simple, trance-style music plays in the background - and that’s about it. There isn’t any speech, and the music and sound effects are pretty standard without much originality. Although the audio is still good enough to listen to without it becoming annoying, there is really only one aspect of the PSP’s technology that the game pushes to its limits: the volume keys.
I’m just going to say it: whether or not you’ll like this game depends primarily on how bored you are. If you’re a busy person and you only play PSP games destined to become all-time classics, you’ll probably want to move right along to something else. With its quirky gameplay and fairly ordinary graphics and sound, Cube is probably not a game you’ll remember years from now. However, if you have some spare time, Cube is also a unique game with enough addictivity to keep you busy at least until “Grand Theft Tetris” arrives.
Hints and Tips
-Avoid destroying bombs unless it is absolutely necessary. Although they are annoying, they are also essential for solving many puzzles.
-Any time you are rerouting one or more bombs, avoid losing track of where they are located. If you’re unsure, it’s best to look around and find them as soon as possible, since otherwise, they might find you first.
-If you are not going for a Gold ranking, many levels contain items and areas that you don’t necessarily need to use. Don’t overlook a simple solution just because there are lots of options available.
-Don’t blow yourself up!