What is the Concept? Cubemen, the latest game from Melbourne-based indie developer 3 Sprockets has two attributes which separate the title from the bulk of the tower defense deluge: it’s devilishly cheap and surprisingly involving. The game’s most rudimentary variant, modestly entitled Defense, tasks players with subduing a procession of resolute invaders across thirty-five stages. Unlike most entries in the genre, Cubemen relinquishes the ability to upgrade your eight types of soldiers. Instead, each of the game’s basic TD archetypes- which range from Grill the SMG-toting grunt, Moty the mortar man, and Sid the sniper, can be moved to preset positions around each map. As such, Cubemen is much more engaging than a typical “set up and sit back” TD title, requiring players to continually manage their regiment much like a real-time strategy game.
Alternatively, other variations pit players against AI or online opponents, as two or more color-coded towers send out a stream of combatants fixated on an enemy turret. Here, in the game’s two-player Skirmish mode or six player (and aptly named) Mayhem option, gamers balance defensive strategies with offensive policies in an effort to surmount opposing strongholds. Regardless of which mode is played, each defeated unit rewards players with currency, which can be spent on additional forces- escalating the amount of bedlam on each battlefield.
What are the game’s strengths? Shirking texture mapping, Cubemen’s polygonal patriots allow players to easily scrutinize the on-screen action. By offering a clean visual style, the title allows gamers to instantly assess a battlefield teeming with multiple skirmishes, permitting players to both identify opportunities and identify when friendlies are coming under fire. Small graphical flourishes like the bouncing disintegration of a soldier or the particle trail of a homing rocket prohibit the game’s visuals from being too austere. Charitably, the game’s simple aesthetics also means Cubemen isn’t a resource hog. On a moderately powered PC, the game poached less than ten percent of the machine’s CPU cycles, while retaining a decent resolution and sixty frame-per-second delivery.
Settings which allow for specific modes such as rocket-only matches or a limit of eight Cubemen on each map deliver additional diversity to the title, while basic leaderboards support displays your personal best as well as the top online score. While Cubemen’s maps are filled with distinctive features like bridges, arches, and catwalks, the inclusion of a level editor would have made a splendid addition.
What are the game’s weaknesses? Although the game’s Endless mode offers levels of varying difficulty, many of the game’s easy and medium stages are ripe for exploitation, allowing skilled players to infinitely plug away at enemies. Even the occasional hard stage allows commandeers to set up a undying army of cubist combatants; I once left a game running for seventeen hours just to check if adversaries could ever topple my paradigm of military power. They couldn’t, but I did wrack up a healthy collection of Steam achievements.
Various colored coded cubes sporadically drop from the sky, offering bonuses identified by a letter or two. Unfortunately, Cubemen doesn’t do an adequate job of explaining these windfalls. Ideally, a simple mouse-over description would identify the nature of each picked up perk.
Is it worth the money? By offering a clever twist on the tower defense genre complemented by a multitude of play modes, variations and maps, Cubemen warrants its five dollar price. For players who still hold a bit of enthusiasm for the genre, the ability to compete against online competitors offers a pleasing supplement to the game’s selection of content. With the title seeing a sale price as low as $1.99 USD, even those fatigued at defeating cavalcades of persistent foes should still be able to discover a few hours of gratification.