Puzzle video games are not everyone’s cup of tea. Rather than focussing on graphical fidelity, action-packed gameplay, or an immersive story, a puzzle game relies on tests of logic, ingenuity, and creativity to attract its players. Above all else, however, a puzzle game must challenge the player, because this challenge is what forces you to rip your hair out playing for hours and hours in a desperate attempt to solve that next puzzle. Unfortunately, indie developer Brush and Code’s new game Cubicity doesn’t quite do enough to create that kind of challenge and falls shy of being a great puzzler.
Cubicity is a 2D physics-based puzzle game in which you play the role of Seamus, a curious guy who jumps into a man-hole and has to work through 60 levels to escape the evil Dr. Shmeev Shmobs’ underground lair. [Best villain name ever. – Ed] That’s about all you get in the way of a story, which is to be expected as the game is entirely about the puzzles and not much else. The 60 levels are divided up into five ‘worlds’ and each world has its own set of backdrops, music, and recurring elements which stops the game from becoming too repetitive and keeps it fresh while playing.
You control Seamus by moving left and right across the screen and the aim of each level is to place the uniquely coloured key cube into a specific square location. This is achieved by using a combination of Seamus’s four different guns – a magnet gun which picks up and drops metallic cubes, a portal gun (effectively a 2D-version of Valve’s Portal gun), a merge gun that allows you to connect similar cubes, and a magnetizer gun, which makes specific cubes or objects attract other metallic objects. Sadly, most levels can be completed purely with the use of the magnet gun and very rarely are you required to use more than two different guns on a level. This is particularly disappointing as the game’s two most challenging levels required use of all four guns and I can’t help but feel that there was potential for more difficult, complex levels to be included.
That being said, the levels that are included are varied and interesting and, despite the lack of multi-gun usage, you still get a satisfactory feeling of achievement each time the key cube clicks into place. This is the key to a good puzzle game as without the sense of reward upon figuring out a tricky problem, there is very little incentive to continue playing. Most levels only take a minute or two to complete (although one or two had me stumped for a bit longer), and it takes around two hours to complete all 5 worlds.
The game has its fair share of bugs and glitches and once or twice I managed to solve levels in a ridiculous fashion as cubes would disappear and reappear in impossible positions, forcing me to restart the level. Seamus also moved through some walls and beams at parts, completely defeating the point of the given level. These were minor issues that could be solved by simply tapping the level reset button, but unfortunately the final level (a type of boss fight encounter) is plagued by numerous glitches and is, frankly, a terrible experience. It is a buggy, unnecessary inclusion and is completely different from the rest of the game which involved logical, interesting puzzles.
Cubicity does include support for an Xbox 360 controller, but it was quite unresponsive to movements of the analogue sticks and I much preferred playing the game with keyboard and mouse. The game often requires quick, precisely timed movements or manipulation of objects and this was difficult to achieve with the poor response time from the controller.
Overall I enjoyed Cubicity for the short, occasionally challenging puzzle game that it is. It has a charming look and feel to it, the use of physics is intriguing, and at times it is difficult enough to be a really fun experience. For the most part, however, the game is too easy and it does not reach its full potential as the levels that have been designed are often too simple. There are a few problems , but it remains an interesting puzzle game (terrible end-game boss fight aside) and could be worth a look if you are a fan of the genre.