The tower defence genre is a well-trodden area, especially as a means to amusing teenagers keen to forsake their future job prospects, infuriating teachers for that same reason and gently entertaining travellers and single people on their newest form of portable technology.
Which brings us to Cubemen, an app download for iOS from Three Sprockets, which dances along the edge of this tired genre type. Whilst it trundles along clearly believing that it pushes the boundaries of genre clichés, the sad reality is that it offers a dull though visually pleasing app that unfortunately has little to no replay value.
Cubemen involves the purchasing of multiple ‘cubemen’ with different guns and weapons ranging from rocket launchers, to laser guns, to flamethrowers to regular pistols, whose goal it is to fight off the evil hordes of unexplained different coloured attackers. You get extra money (cubes), to buy extra and better Cubemen who you can then place around the boards built on cubes to win the war of the cubes. In case you were wondering, this games chief concept is to take Picasso’s cubism there and back again, there once more, back quite slowly and there one more time just for good measure.
All-in-all the game’s visuals are impressive yet samey, like a scaled-down version of Tron: Legacy in the sense that it looks pretty but lacks story, or enough excitement to truly hook you in. The tower defence aspect is wholly successful and the ability to adjust the strength of the waves or the style of game you’re playing does not overshadow the fact that the gameplay is dry and appears to have little concept of its own difficulty: absent-mindedly labelling most the levels easy when in fact they are impenetrably difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, a game with a challenge is fun, however this game throws you in at the deep end whilst also not honing itself as a battle strategy game all that successfully: neither position, placement nor manner of Cube soldier you choose seems to matter little in relation to cash management.
The only relative success comes if your first choice of soldier is lucky enough to hit a few oncoming enemies then you can get another, possibly better one. The set-up consciously abandons the more interesting part of the genre, like selling towers, upgrading towers, which have always been an important part of a strategy game and this game ignores it in turn for hopeful punts on things you’re not guaranteed a return on. All-in-all it feels more like a tutorial in how to be an investment banker than a strategy tower defence game.
The game’s strongest and most interesting feature is the 360 degree board and 3D surroundings, which adds another level to the strategy aspect with height and different angles at which to view the onslaught. If only this was a true tower strategy game, this could have been better taken advantage of.
Cubemen does however offer some interesting add-ons: a skirmish mode is a slightly different angle to take where you have to do your best to escort smaller cubes to the opposition flag whilst enemy soldiers do the same and it all turns into a spaghetti western style shoot off, which is fun, if not exactly completely new.
The customisation tool is all well and good, but it’s just not as impactful as you’d like, giving the option of dressing your character in ninja or pirate outfits, which are then hardly visible in the gameplay makes you feel a little like one of those people who purchases a Ferrari only to leave it in the garage until special occasions.
Additionally, Cubemen offers the intriguing idea of an online option, which rather fatally doesn’t work in the slightest for the most part but then occasionally does spark into life offering the skirmish mode, but against someone else instead of a computer and a mayhem mode which was sparsely populated with online team-mates when we played and slow in loading, and when push comes to shove you find yourself realising that the game isn’t all that worth the wait.
Cubemen is available to download now.