[Disclaimer: indie games that I review are reviewed differently than larger development team games; “AAA” games. This doesn’t mean I don’t hold them to high standards, but rather, I take into consideration different variables, such as the size of the actual development team, or the type of finances that were available]
I remember years ago when a game titled Shadow Run had been released. Cross platform online multiplayer gameplay was the major selling point. I had a console, my buddy had a PC, but that wouldn’t stop us with the game. It didn’t take long to realize the game wouldn’t survive cross platform play, as the controls didn’t translate well between the two different platforms, and within the month, we had both taken back our copies. Fast forward to the present, and we have an unlikely, rather large goal from smaller indie developer, 3 Sprockets, and publisher Nnooo: cross platform online multiplayer. I was skeptical, to say the least, but did this title change my mind?
Visuals – 7/10
Visuals are nothing special in this game, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t endearing. The name says it all; you manage and direct cube men, protecting your base while trying to be on the offensive. Cubemen 2 may not boast incredible visuals, nor does it show off what the Wii U can do graphically, but it does run very smoothly. Even during online play the frame rate rarely slowed down, holding a nice pace while playing.
To combat the visual fatigue, the developers made the smart choice to make various skins to “dress” your cube men. Want them to look like pirates? Sure! How about futuristic soldiers? The option is there if you want it. Heck, want them to be luchadors? You’ve got it! Honestly, the luchadors were my favorite skin. Anyway, all the skins are made available right from the beginning, and can be adjusted in the settings. To further add to the visual variety, the player can change the style of the cubes used to make the actual maps. Needless to say, there are a lot of visual combinations to explore, which plays into Cubemen 2 being so endearing, visually, even if it isn’t the best technically.
To get back to the frame rate, I was pleasantly impressed to see the game run so smoothly. This is key, as you don’t want to be in the middle of a battle and have it drop, just to be overrun by your opponents. I moved all around, twisting the view every which way, while directing my various soldiers all over the map; the game never slowed up. The solid work from the developers truly shows in this aspect.
In short, though the visuals aren’t technically great, the developers circumvented that problem by making the overall visual experience enjoyable and entertaining.
Audio – 7.75/10
Cubemen 2 is full of catchy compositions, each with its own unique feel. The player can adjust the volume of the music, SFX, and which compositions to play. There is a decent amount of music as well, giving variety to the player. The music is synth heavy, which is fine and really fits the general feel of the game.
As for the general audio within the gameplay, each sound is utilized well and means something. When an enemy cube man enters your base, the audio tells you. When one of your men gets destroyed, again, the audio notifies you of the event. This is extremely helpful as there will be many times you can’t see the entire map and will have to rely on the audio. The developers did a decent job making the various noises different from one another, all while fitting together. In this, I give kudos to them.
I do have one gripe, however, and that is the fact I can’t put all of the music on an endless loop. Or if I could, it wasn’t made clear to me. The only times I had the option to change the music were at the main menu and during a match. The problem was that the match doesn’t pause, but keeps on going; this is obviously not good, as the player doesn’t want to lose because they wanted to change the music. The player has to select the music icon at the bottom right of the GamePad and choose which song to change it to. Making the game loop endlessly, or perhaps making a playlist, would’ve been a much needed addition to the musical aspect in the gameplay. Other than this fairly minor complaint, the music is sufficient in this title – it fits the genre, helps to fill space, and works with the style of the game (instead of feeling merely added on as an after thought).
Gameplay – 9.25/10
This is the strongest aspect of Cubemen 2. The game is essentially played on the GamePad; though the TV displays what is being shown on the GamePad, the player will use most of the buttons on the GamePad constantly, as well as the touch screen. The goal in each match can vary, depending on what type of game mode you play (ie- skirmish, capture the flag, etc), but generally you try to defend your base while trying to conquers others’ bases. Your base has a specific amount of space that can be “filled” by enemies who enter in, so it is your job to guide your various soldiers to stop this from happening.
The controls are intuitive and very simple, though they can become very complicated (in a good way) the more you play, especially against other human players. To move one of your soldiers, simply touch him or her to select them, then touch where you want them on the screen. While selected, you can upgrade them (which also refills their life meter), tell them how/who to attack, and view their stats.
When no soldier is selected, the left side of the screen shows the many different types of soldiers you can build from the cube stash you have. Each player starts with a set amount of cubes, in which to build whatever soldiers they desire. The player must refill their cubes be destroying enemy cube men, which will allow for more soldiers to be built or more upgrade to be purchased. This game promotes very simple concepts and controls which can quickly become much more in-depth and complex.
To alter the view in a circular pattern, the player uses the left stick. The right stick (or swiping across the touch screen) move the entire map in that direction. The up and down on the d-pad zooms in and out. Many of the buttons are used, and nothing felt overbearing or counter-intuitive, which really helps with a game like this (so many options to choose from).
Though there are many solo levels to play, the multiplayer is where the true fun is to be had. The player can either play default maps or custom made ones made by the many creative minds playing the game (either against bots, bots and humans, or humans only.) In fact, I was able to play on my own special X-men inspired map. Which leads to me to the custom map editor.
I spent a good 40 minutes making my [lame] creation. The editor by itself is incredibly fun and works pretty well, though there were some moments of frustration when I would tap on the screen and it wouldn’t register. These moments were few and far between, though, so I had a blast creating maps. In addition, players can rate your maps (either with a thumbs up or a thumbs down), so others playing online can see their recommendations. The developers truly did an amazing job making everything incredibly customizable.
With only a few hiccups here and there, and a couple frustrating moments, the editor and gameplay are solid and definitely entertained me. You’ll have fun trying to survive against your friends, while trying to simultaneously take them out.
Entertainment Factor – 9/10
Nnooo, honestly, impressed me with Cubemen 2. I asked at the beginning of this review if the cross platform online play would be decent, and I’m here to tell you that it is much more than simply decent. Once in a game, and as long as the other players had decent connections, I had no problems that I encountered. I was playing with people on PC, Wii U, or maybe even gamers on their iOS device. The game works, handling the cross platform well. Also, this type of game translates well between all the platforms released on, which is another huge “win.” I didn’t feel like any version had to be lessened in order for the other platforms to compete, as the general gameplay mechanics were also translatable across the platforms. I had tons of fun playing online, both on custom maps as well as default ones.
I was also impressed with the usage of the GamePad. It is clear to see why the developers chose to bring their game to the Wii U, as the GamePad is a perfect way to play. The touch screen is utilized well – and utilized a lot! Once again, everything is very intuitive and it won’t take long for you to start becoming a master with the game; if it is a little confusing, there are two optional tutorials to take that will really help. The more you play, the more familiar you become with the different soldiers, which will help with your strategy for future matches.
This game doesn’t really have any story, but this is a multiplayer game through and through. While reviewing it, I was greatly entertained by Cubemen 2, and I can easily see this being a title I constantly come back to in the future. In addition, this is a very important step for not only cross platform games, but indie games. These developers have raised the bar with online multiplayer.
So, how does Cubemen 2 stack up (ha, get it?! Stack up?!) It is a great indie title to own, especially for only $7.99. And hey, if you have friends who are PC gamers, then suggest this title to them so you can play together! Cubemen 2 is an endearing multiplayer game that manages to reach its incredibly high goals. Why are you still reading this? Go and download it so we can compete on my X-men arena build!
Overall – 8.5/10