Review: Cubemen 2 Stumbles out of the Blocks
Indie studio 3 Sprockets released Cubemen 2 on Steam this past Tuesday, writing a new chapter for the action strategy franchise. With cross-platform gameplay reaching audiences on the Windows, OSX and Linux platforms, Cubemen 2 combines elements of tower defense, capture the flag, and territory based games into one compact package.
Cubemen played crisp and smooth, and was easy to get into from the get go. This was an asset, yet also the game’s biggest downfall; Cubemen 2 was simply too easy for my taste. With multiplayer population low and AI flicked aside with ease, it was hard to become absorbed into Cubemen like I thought I might initially. Continue on below for my full thoughts on Cubemen 2.
6 out of 10 Buddhas
(PC version reviewed)
- Classic tower defense gameplay
- Variety of units makes your strategy adjustable
- Nice visual effects despite low-res graphics
- Community content is vast for a small title
The Not so Awesome
- Low difficulty; easy to set up units and then sit back in many cases
- Soundtrack is repetitive and uninspired
- Becomes more of a watching experience
Buy or Rent: Buy only if you’re a big fan of tower defense type games
In Cubemen 2, players must build unique units with different strengths and weaknesses to combat their foes. Your units are purchased with cube currency, and carry everything from pistols, to snipers, to frost lightning.
The path to victory lies in finding the correct combination of units for the given scenario, with terrain differences and enemy unit types changing the formula each time. Investing more cubes allows you to upgrade your units, giving them more range, power, and HP to battle your foes. Crates fall from the sky periodically, providing upgrades, damage, and credits to the player who reaches them first. Using your noggin to balance keeping key positions with venturing out to grab these drops added a nice wrinkle to Cubemen 2.
The game modes aren’t distinct, but a rehashing of many classic action-based game types. Tower defense stands at the heart of the single player only section, while capture the flag is the crown jewel of the multiplayer capable game types. Figuring out which unit types fit best for each game type is another step in mastering the game; overwhelming opponents with a mass of upgraded pistol units is a viable strategy in CTF, but more powerful units are necessary to withstand the onslaught in defense based games.
While the game played well and units did their jobs in a way that made each of them useful in separate circumstances, Cubemen 2 got a bit redundant and overly passive for my liking. In tower defense modes, play often becomes stagnant once the user gets their pieces into advantageous positions.
Though I understand this is essentially the “point” of tower defense, it left me feeling unsatisfied as I set up my pieces and blankly stared at the screen, waiting for the AI to challenge my troops. Purchasing a couple of the cheap pistol units and upgrading them provided an easy way to farm credits at the beginning of every level, gaining easy access to the more powerful units like the sniper. Once a couple of snipers are entrenched in the corners of the map, you’ll have time to get up and get your refreshment of choice to keep you occupied as your mini force mows down opponents.
A lot of my time in Cubemen 2’s single player component was spent feeling like I was part of an interactive show rather than a game. That would be fine in a heavily story based game like the brilliant Walking Dead spinoff or the Metal Gear Solid series, but there is no story to be told here, unless you’re making up your own stories for your customizable units.
The multiplayer games make up for this to an extent, with game modes that force the player to grab real estate and move around the map quickly. Again though, it essentially comes down to unit strength and real estate. Even in a territory game, it seemed far too easy to pin the opponent with power units, stagnating the game.
The graphics for Cubemen 2 were a classic case of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 3 Sprockets’ low res style did little to impress at first glance, with gray block worlds and generic red and blue characters. The pixelated blocks reminded me of games that may have been included in a deluxe version of Windows 95.
However, there were plenty of small touches that I thought created a nice atmosphere. The block fire used by the flamethrower weapon was notably cool looking, and the flashing mortar shells were a nice touch by 3 Sprockets. Maps became more detailed and intricate as I advanced, both in regards to gameplay and graphical design. Nice splashes of color and texture brought the blocky graphics up a notch.
Cubemen 2’s release info highlighted the varied customization options available to players, which players reacted negatively to when they found out many of the custom skins were locked behind a pay wall. In a nice gesture to fans, 3 Sprocket made all skins and themes from the Steam store page screenshots and trailers permanently free. There will still be paid content that some users will have to dip into their pockets for, but the response to community feedback was commendable on the part of the indie developer.
Cubemen 2’s weakest link in the package would definitely be the sound. The soundtrack for the game consists mainly of looped guitar riffs, which are generic and repetitive. These riffs aren’t particularly offensive to your ears, but grow stale over time. Ditto for Cubemen 2’s sound effects; the effects do little to distinguish themselves and feel like throw-ins rather than important choices by the developer.
Cubemen 2 was not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. The various game types and units allow you to approach the maps each from different angles. Variety and depth coming from a small, modestly priced game is certainly a plus. With a strong community producing hundreds of unique user maps in the early stages of the game’s existence, there is room to grow for Cubemen 2 through user input and developer involvement. 3 Sprockets has already shown they are responsive to the community, perhaps a sign of things to come.
In the end, I couldn’t help but feel bored with the experience, as I was awarded platinum after platinum with minimal effort on my end. I don’t want to be a spectator in games that I play unless the story unfolding before me transcends the norm for video games. While the mechanics and content for Cubemen 2 work the way they’re intended, engagement lacked severely and tempered my desire to play. I would have to give Cubemen 2 an EB 6 out of 10 Buddhas, and recommend that you buy it only if you’re a big fan of tower defense style games. The launch trailer is available for viewing below:
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