Bubble wrap with a beat
PopCube is a simple game to come to grips with. It’s the kind of experience that “does what it says on the tin,” but does so in such a fine way that it becomes a bit more than the sum of its parts. In fact, it’s one of the better puzzle games we’ve seen in a while. Developed by Tri-anger, your goal is to, well, pop every single correctly colored cube that’s scattered on a vertical playfield. The correct colors are indicated by a larger, master version of those cubes, which is decked out in ridiculously oversized DJ headphones and a sideways baseball cap. Popping the cubes builds your score and summons power-ups that extend your playtime by either clearing even more cubes by force, or adding a precious few seconds to the one-minute timer that rapidly ticks down to zero.
Hectic is the best word to describe the action here. A typical game session goes something like this: The timer reads 60 seconds and then — start. You glance at the master cube and see the target color is blue. You scan the playfield, popping blue cubes with your finger as you go, with adjacent cubes of the same color giving you the opportunity to smoothly slide your finger from one cube to the next and eliminate rows in short order. All blues eliminated. Good. The master cube now flashes yellow and your pace must quicken, as time is slipping through your fingers. Thankfully, your reward for clearing the last color was a bomb icon. You touch it and a series of explosions tear through the majority of the cubes remaining on the screen. Hell of a pop, there.
A few stragglers remain, but furious finger poking makes short work of them. The screen rapidly refills with more of the tenacious little buggers, and the master cube decides on green this time. As luck would have it, you’ve been rewarded with an icon that shoots a laser beam both horizontally and vertically, zapping any cubes it connects with into nonexistence. Inhale. Exhale. You’ve taken too long of a breather and now you’ve got 20 seconds to zero. The game doesn’t relent and takes every wasted second as an opportunity to fill the screen with more and more cube clutter.
You start popping like there’s no tomorrow. All clear again, and 12 seconds left on the clock. The puzzle gods smile upon you and grace you with an icon that gives you extended time — but only five seconds of it. You accept your fate and pop for all you’re worth. Clear again, and now you receive an icon that increases your score multiplier. This time the master cube bets on black. 5 seconds left. Four, three, two, one, zero. The end is here, but you’ve managed just enough pops to outdo your previous high score. And now for one more shot.
The game is nice and clean, graphically speaking. Although the theme here is obviously inspired by the club scene, the game remains similar in appearance to other entries in the crowded genre. But then again, how many different ways can you dress up a block without going too far and scaring away potential puzzle fans? The special effects (bomb blasts, laser beams, et cetera) show enough visual oomph without becoming a distraction or hindrance. The sound design is similarly inoffensive and appropriate as it’s also inspired by the kind of techno/rave music scene the game lays claim to. And the “popping” noise that results from clearing cubes is very satisfying.
PopCube doesn’t have the deepest mechanics, but what it does have is that “just one more round” quality everyone wants. Honestly, if there was more to do than just pop cubes, it would be a completely different game (given the limited amount of time you’re given) and not necessarily a better one, either. If you’re looking for a furiously frantic way to pass the time, PopCube could be the game for you.