Cubixx HD Review
There are plenty of unique puzzle titles available on the PlayStation Network, and many are great for passing time on a rainy day. The release of Cubixx HD doesn’t epitomize good timing as the hefty fall schedule looms large, but fans of the genre might want to try something new, strategic, and fast-paced. There are a few irritating issues and the difficulty can be overly challenging in some instances, but this production by Laughing Jackal is both entertaining and addictive. Those are the hallmarks of a solid puzzle experience.
Graphically, the game embraces a slick, even stark futuristic palette that sorta reminds one of “Tron.” At first, it looks almost bland: a simple green cube, a few floating red squares that travel across the cube faces, and your laser line. But as you play and progress, color really begins to infuse this presentation; new enemies, power-ups, various designs, and the interior of a cut-away cube adds great flair. It still feels a little underwhelming in the visual category but then again, the focus is on gameplay, as it should be. I just expected something a bit brighter.
Many puzzle titles this generation have utilized techno and electronic music to great effect; here, the developers adopt such tracks to accompany your cube-cutting. The tunes aren’t distracting or overly emphatic, either; they exist in the background and act primarily as a complementary device. You tend to notice the music more during hectic, dangerous sequences, though. The sound effects fall in line with the rest of the presentation; i.e., decent without being sparkling and downplayed for the sake of putting the gameplay at the forefront. It definitely works.
It’s tough to describe Cubixx HD. I could just say, “you cut away the six faces of a cube with a laser, and you complete the level when you’ve cut away the target percentage.” But that doesn’t really do the game justice, because regardless of any flowery description I might use, it could still sound boring. For this reason, I would urge you to at least try the demo on the PSN; it’ll give you a better idea of what to expect, as this is one of those “you gotta play it to see” situations. But obviously, I can’t just leave it at that. This is a review, after all.
You travel along the lines of the cube with the aforementioned laser, and hold down the X (or one of the shoulder buttons) to start the cutting. You can travel across any part of the cube that isn’t cut, but if the Cubixx – these wandering red squares – come in contact with the line you’re currently cutting, you lose a life. After the first stage is complete, you’ll come across line chasers, which hunt you along the lines of the cube. Other pitfalls show up later but to assist in your challenging quest are power-ups; if you cut out the section of the cube on which the power-up resides, it’s yours.
You can also destroy the Cubixx’s “younger brother” (smaller purple squares) in the same fashion, and power-ups include extra lives, faster lasers, and other cool bonuses. It’s a constant balancing act: you don’t want the Cubixx to nail the line you’re cutting across a certain face, but you can’t just hover along the lines in safety, ‘cuz the chasers will get you eventually. You always have to keep moving; sometimes you’re forced to cut just to escape while other times, you have a plan in your head. Later levels are extremely demanding and require more than a few tries to conquer, but that’s the point of a puzzle game, isn’t it?
At the same time, that difficulty can be the game’s downfall. It can be tough to see the line chasers sometimes, especially when moving quickly, and when a lot is going on, it’s easy to get flustered. Initially, I was a little annoyed at the Cubixx finding my line before I finished it, but that just requires your rapt attention. It also keeps you from being greedy. But getting back to the difficulty, you have to complete one full stage (comprised of five levels) without losing all your lives, or you have to start the stage over. This gets insanely rough later on.
But with 50 levels over 10 stages, multiple modes – including Time Attack, Line Attack, Score Attack, and various unique Challenges – there’s plenty of bang for your buck. Playing with friends can be wicked engrossing, too; it actually reminded me of the days of Bomberman. No, the games aren’t similar at all, but the fast-paced, ceaseless yet strategic style isn’t dissimilar. And playing by yourself can be invigorating, once you start on those Challenges. They’re aptly named and add plenty of variety and flavor.
Cubixx HD can feel a little cheap due to steep difficulty and those occasionally tough-to-see line chasers (the cube rotates, remember, so it’s easy to run right into them), and zipping along crazily cut lines with the left analog stick or directional pad can be irksome. Of course, you cut the lines that way, even if you didn’t feel you had much choice. Still, the game is unique, entertaining, surprisingly diverse, and quite addictive. There’s a lot of ingenuity and creativity here, and Laughing Jackal should be applauded for the effort.
The Good: Slick albeit simple presentation. Unique, appealing puzzle gameplay. Can be very rewarding. Multiplayer is a big highlight. Lengthy arcade mode and creative Challenges help justify a purchase.
The Bad: Visibility can be an issue. Difficulty can hinder enjoyment. Control is tough along jagged lines.
The Ugly: Your controller might not last through this one.
9/21/2011 Ben Dutka