Playing Gameeel’s Exocubes is kind of like seeing a flick starring Samuel L. Jackson: it can be fun at times, sure, but it’s by no means an extraordinary experience.
Forgive the strange and biased analogy, but a game reviewer such as yours truly is trying to make a point that mediocrity exists in the interactive entertainment world just as it does in Hollywood.
Exocubes starts off promising enough, though, thanks to a quirky-looking cubed-headed stick figure that animates on the screen. The odd story has something to do with this little guy named Cubert (a descendant of Q*Bert, the long-nosed ’80s game icon, perhaps?), who wakes up in a cube-like room, trapped in an unknown dimension in space. Um, yep, and you’re needed to help him escape from dozens of cubed rooms by destroying them.
Don’t worry – you don’t need to follow the story to understand the game. At first glance, Exocubes somewhat resembles the game of Tetris, because players are presented with a grid with colored cubes that slowly move towards the bottom of the screen; if it reaches the bottom, it is game over. In order to destroy the cubes before this happens, you must create a vertical or horizontal line of at least three cubes of the same color – and it must be touching the bottom of the grid and not in the middle or the top. To do this, players use the mouse to drag and drop cubes so that the same-colored ones are adjoined before a “scanner bar” reads your handiwork and destroys successfully aligned cubes. What makes the game challenging is the fact you can only move cubes up and down (vertically) and not horizontally. That – and you don’t have a lot of time to complete the level before the scanner bar begins to move quickly.
The game-play concept wasn’t easy to understand at first, so it wasn’t until level 3 or so did I figure out how to properly make the same-colored matches at the bottom of the screen. It probably didn’t help that the brief introductory tutorial mentioned that “red” cubes needed to be paired, but they were clearly brown, which threw me off even more.
“Power-up” cubes will aid in your quest to complete the nearly 50 levels in the main game mode. Players will find cubes that explode, destroying all nearby cubes, ones that shoot out sideways and up and down to clear the row or column (called a “cross bomb”) and others that help you with more time from the scanner bar. New rooms to complete will introduce new power-ups, as well as new obstacles and other challenges to make your task a tougher one.
After 5 levels or so, players will also unlock new cube sets, though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. That is, I figured this referred to new graphics for the cubes (sort of like unlocking new playing card backs in a game of solitaire), but this wasn’t the case. Ah well.
Aside from unclear instructions and some odd grammar (“Do you want tutorial?”), another problem happens when you’re about to run out of time because your column of cubes is about to touch the bottom. A siren will sound to tell you to hurry up but the cubes also begin to shine white – which, ironically, means you can’t clearly see what colors the cubes are so you can quickly make your matches to destroy them before it hits the bottom. This “feature” is both counterproductive and frustrating.
Exocubes isn’t a bad puzzle game – it’s simply an average one that could definitely use more accurate instructions and further testing. Fans of games such as Tetris might want to download this casual game, but frankly, you’re not missing much if you don’t.