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Cubes Invasion

I wasn’t thrilled when They sent me this game. They had not been merciful with their free game apportioning in the past, and surely this latest PC puzzle game offering spoke further of Their malevolence. But if I was to appease Them and receive any more advance copies of games, I had to tough it out and have a go at the damn thing. Considering my reluctance at playing Cubes Invasion, I couldn’t foresee how a review would be feasible.

And yet, here it is. Karma is a beautiful thing, because I’ve been a good boy lately, and Cubes Invasion doesn’t suck. It’s actually a lot of fun to play.

An enjoyable twist on the old Tetris theme involving pieces dropping into a well, Cubes Invasion does what it sets out to do on its small budget–once you start playing, it keeps you playing. I’ve found that puzzle games are either annoying or addicting, and Cubes leans heavily toward the latter category.

The premise is simple. Coloured squares (the game is played out completely in two dimensions; I don’t know where developer Sugar Games got this “cube” thing from), drop into a well, and en route they may be rotated to allow connections with other pieces once they settle. The connections create a segment, which will disappear affording the player space and time, lest the well wall up. Each square is diagonally divided in half; the top right portion is coloured differently from the bottom left. And so you turn the squares and match colours to create segments and keep your area neat and tidy and your score well nourished.

Admittedly, the premise is probably too simple to compete with Tetris without some spice and variation thrown in. Fortunately, Sugar Games delivers, offering three skill levels. On Easy, a segment is created from only four squares. On Normal, five squares are necessary to effect the same thing, and on Hard, six. All three skill levels will seem similar and equally approachable when you start out, but when your score inevitably speeds things up and pieces start anchoring hard and fast to your well’s bottom and each other, the difference between needing four and six connections to clear space will make itself all too clear.

The variations don’t stop there, thankfully. Besides the regular mode of play, there is also a treasure hunt version included in the Cubes Invasion package, which asks that you abandon normal square-clearing mentality in favour of ‘freeing’ only the pieces with a bag of treasure on them. When you’re just starting out, you’ll only need to connect one or two bags to proceed to the next stage. But by the time you reach say, stage 20, tons of bags will be crying out to be released from their coloured jails and the stage will likely start you out with the blocks already encroaching dangerously near the top of the well. The evil!

A final mode, dubbed “Cube Tamer”, has us making only a single connection to create segments at stage one, then two at stage two, and so on. In later, double digit stages, you’ll be required to link so many squares together you’ll likely lose count, your head in a haze of colours and sweat. The intensity of being in the square-linking zone is never so well manifested as here. This is as good as Cubes Invasion gets, and it’s good enough to replace Solitaire or whatever as your PC diversion of choice.

My complaints with Cubes are few. The music is unnecessarily repetitive and white bread; what is it about puzzle games like this? Can’t we get a rocking ten-track shooter score? Besides that, the graphics are serviceable, but surely we could have gotten some nicely shaded shapes and detailed backgrounds adorning our wells? Instead, everything is competent, but flat and wholly lacking in detail. The final nitpick isn’t so easy to address: the game, though addicting, can never live up to the appeal of the granddaddy of them all, Tetris. It’s an innate weakness really, which is certainly not unique to Cubes (another colour-matching game, Columns, comes to mind).

If you’re on your PC a bit, I recommend that you purchase Cubes Invasion at the nominal fee Sugar Games’ site is asking. It can run on just about any PC and OS, and it’s an application worth running–also ran or not.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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