April 19, 2007 - They cool drinks, sweeten tea, imprison the working man and star in their own PSP game -- is there anything cubes can't do? Scheduled to roll out next week from Media Interactive Ltd. and D3Publisher of America, Inc., the company behind Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, [Register or Login to view links] boasts 135 levels where your goal is to get a movable cube in a 3D world from the start of a level to the glowing exit at the end.
The concept gets all sorts of complicated from there, but it makes for an enjoyable portable puzzler.
Your cube can roll to anyone of its sides and stick to that surface as long as the surface isn't a special square. That means as you navigate the 3D map made of side-by-side cubes, you can roll over the edge of whatever platform you're on and stick to the underside. See a column of cubes? You can roll up it and rotate the camera to turn the vertical stack into a horizontal line. With all this directional freedom, the levels in Cube run from towering staircases to giant cubes to unconnected cube groups, but it won't simply be the shape of Cube's maps that challenge you when you turn on your PSP; it's the shapes combined with the dangers that inhabit the environments.
When you start the first set of "easy" levels -- the game features three difficulties, each with three sets of levels that players need to play through to unlock the next difficulty -- you'll face bombs, simplistic foes that just sit there. These unmoving jokes will be a minor annoyance for you to maneuver around, but then, the rest of the dangers start cropping up. There'll be rotating blocks, squares that force you in certain directions and devices that blow you backward. Soon you'll have an exit point on top of a pillar, three sides will be surrounded by sinking surfaces -- quicksand for cubes-- and the only side with an opening will have a spiked bomb rolling back and forth. Other times finishing a level means using the bombs against one another. You'll move a block to make a path, you'll dodge a rolling bomb and switch a directional arrow, and the bomb will follow the arrow and collide with another bomb blocking the exit. That's pretty cool -- except when you screw it up and send the rolling bomb into a wall and leave yourself with no way to get to the exit.
Add hidden bombs, spiked surfaces, bomb-shooting squares and time limits to the puzzles, and Cube becomes a detailed test to see how quickly you can snatch all the keys in an area and make it to the exit for a gold, silver or bronze ranking. The game gives you a look around the level before the clock starts, but even after your birds-eye view, remembering the map in the heat of the puzzle is easier said than done.
For as much fun as the gameplay can be, the levels can get more than a little repetitive and the game's other aspects are a big old bit of bland. Each group of levels is called a zone and assigned a color. That hue makes up the map and the background the puzzle is suspended over. It might not sound like much, but after a few runs on a pink set of cubes floating over a pink background, my eyes were on fire and I was ready to move on. Beyond the map itself, the obstacles you face have little to no personality. The bombs are jagged gray diamonds with red spikes, the sink squares are just mustard yellow and the other dangers are equally as forgettable.