Cubemen seems like just another tower defense game, but with so many similar games free to play online, 3 Sprockets will have to show something a little different in order to justify the price tag.
Like other tower defense games, Cubemen tasks you with defending a base – with a limited number of lives – from waves of enemy attacks. The main difference between Cubemen and similar games is that all of the “towers” in Cubemen aren’t static, and can be moved around after they’ve been placed at one position. This means that you can change your strategy on the fly, and makes it much easier to react to changes between different waves of enemies.
Cubemen features three different modes to test your strategic ability; defense, your typical tower defense mode; skirmish, one on one competition; and Mayhem, six vs. six online multiplayer. Both multiplayer modes can be enjoyed offline against AI opponents if you haven’t got any mates, or can’t find any open network games. Defense is your standard single player tower defense mode, but doesn’t pose too much of a challenge to anyone who has played tower defense games before (except on the hardest difficulty setting, which is excruciatingly tricky). Really this mode acts as a glorified tutorial so that you are accustomed to the game before taking on the more adventurous multiplayer modes.
The main problem with playing against the computer, in any of the modes, is that the initial units available in each level are really underpowered compared to those of the computer; and the more advanced units are too over-powered. As soon as you save up enough cubes to buy a few laser-gun toting the computer doesn’t stand a chance, and it’s simply a matter of fast forwarding through the rest of the level until the AI runs out of waves to send at you. Whilst there is something very satisfying about surviving long enough to place down a gauntlet of lasers, homing missiles, mortars etc. and sitting back to watch the carnage facing your enemy; the game ultimately becomes more of a difficult slog for survival, rather than strategy focused. This sucks a lot of the potential fun out of the game and eventually makes the game feel like a chore.
While single player acts as a typical tower defense game, the option for both players to move any unit results in the multiplayer mode functioning more like an RTS game. This is where the moveable-towers idea begins to falter. The units can only be placed on certain spots, so it begins to look like chess, if all the pieces could shoot at each other. Except most of the units are useless. Unless you can wait to buy a laser-man or a rocket-man, a lot of the time you’re left to watch helplessly as your base gets swarmed. Which isn’t as fun as it sounds. This becomes increasingly frustrating at higher difficulty levels, or with more teams involved. The six vs. six mode is often so difficult that you’re left sending one or two blokes per wave out on a suicide mission, as there’s nothing else you can do. All units are made from cubes gained from killing enemy units, so it’s very easy to get into a cycle of being unable to build anything, because you destroy anything, because you can’t build anything… Given a lot of patience, it’s possible to devise strategies that help you survive longer, but this is more as a result of trial and error than anything else.
Graphically, everything is kept pretty simple and clean. The cubes are a great way of keeping everything clear and distinct, and look pretty great. The mixture of exploding Cubemen and weapons firing can become a bit chaotic during some of the more difficult levels – especially when there are lots of different units in a small space – but this never really becomes a serious problem. It can become a bit of a nuisance if you need to micro-manage a situation, as you can never really be sure on what you’re clicking on, but this only really applies in especially hectic situations; it is very satisfying to watch the cubic destruction once a good defensive cross-fire has been set up. There are plenty of nice sound effects to go along with all the explosions, laser beams and other cube-weapons. The backing track is a fairly simple electro driven beat that goes well with all the accessory noises. This is fine in short bursts, but if you’re going to be playing for any serious length of time it’s better to play the game on mute – the sounds do get repetitive quite quickly.
With future updates set to include a level editor, which could add more creativity and variety to the game, this could change but as it stands there isn’t an awful lot on offer here that makes it stand out for recommendation over other tactical defense games. This is by no means a bad game but it just didn’t really do anything for me for me that hasn’t been done before; I don’t feel like it has much longevity, and can’t really see myself coming back too often. It is a really well put together game and the new ideas showed some good potential, but the end result just never really matches up to what it could have offered.