Anomaly: Warzone Earth surprised folks back in 2011 by flipping around the traditional “tower defense” on its head, creating a game where rather than strategically building defenses against enemies, the player is instead the offensive force. It worked well, and was interesting to say the least. Cubetractor, a similar game by developer Ludochip, seems to seek to follow in its tower offense footsteps, albeit on a different path.
In Cubetractor, you take the role of a little blue robot named Endroi that just wants to have fun. Its builders are none too happy, however, as its idea of fun seems to be destroying the local area’s turrets and generators and other such cube constructs by building its own rival ones. Endroi accomplishes this through the method of “cubetracting”–attracting cubes together which act as the materials that form Endroi’s arsenal. For example, bringing a brown block and a ‘claw’ block together forms a power generator, and so on.
Thus the basic shape of the game comes together. It’s a very simple idea with surprising depth and challenge. This is not a straightforward tower offense game, but rather a mix of elements from that genre with those from bullet-hell, puzzle, and real-time strategy games. The defensive constructs are not on a linear path but strewn about in strategic patterns that must be carefully assessed and are, really, one big puzzle to solve. The player must direct Endroi to not only build its own turrets, defensive blockades, generators, and so on, but must also keep it safe by avoiding the fire of the rival turrets. Heck, little Endroi is also vulnerable to getting hurt by its own blocks if you don’t hurry to move it out of the path of one. Luckily, there are little wrenches around that you can gather to fix it and keep on building.
Don’t be fooled by its charming and simplistic pixel art, Cubetractor is hard. This is one of those games that fits the bill of the old saying, “easy to learn, hard to master”. The controls are incredibly simple, and the tutorial is, as you might expect, a breeze. However, the levels quickly become merciless and it’ll take lots of planning and quick reflexes to make it through them. That’s just the basic story levels too. There are optional levels that are even more difficult. On top of that, there are batteries to collect and a timer that will give you a bronze, silver, or gold rating depending both on how quickly you got through the myriad challenges and how intact Endroi came out of them. This provides plenty of reason to go back to previous levels to try and get a higher rating.
As said before, while very simple, the art is intensely delightful and colourful. It feels like a children’s playground, if that playground was littered with cute little robots and turrets that could kill you. The characters, especially Endroi, all raise the sheer likeability of the game with adorable and occasionally funny dialogue and the music is appropriately upbeat and undistracting. Despite how difficult it is, Cubetractor doesn’t wear out its welcome with seemingly unfair frustration. It is, quite simply, an utter pleasure to be around and play.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose. This review is based off of the Windows version.
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