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PC Game Review: Exocubes

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The first release from Hong Kong-based developer Gameeel, Exocubes looks like a Lumines clone at first glance. Sure, it’s got a scanner and a slowly moving wall of blocks you need to cut your way through to survive, but that’s about as close as the similarities come. Exocubes is surprisingly fun and just as easy to jump in and play as many of puzzle gaming’s other classics like Tetris and Bubble Bobble, but items and power-ups that you can use to help maneuver through each level, is what adds a whole other layer of strategy and excitement.

There’s a back story to the game, involving a fellow by the name of Cubert who wakes up in an unknown dimension and needs your help to escape, but it’s not really important. What’s far more important are the actual game play dynamics, as well as how the game looks and sounds.

Exocubes has two different modes of play and upwards of 50 different levels to choose from. Each presents unique challenges and incorporates different sets of items; the further you progress into Exocubes, the more items you’ll have to use at your disposal, including different types of bombs and items that speed up the scanner’s pace.

Like in Lumines, Exocubes gives you a slowly descending wall of blocks and has you keep trying to eliminate them to stay alive. In order to do that, you’ll have to move the blocks into vertical or horizontal rows of at least three blocks of the same color. When the game’s scanner runs through the blocks, they’ll be energized and dropped from the field, creating a hole in the wall. Considering that the scanner weakens through each row of blocks that it passes through and does not create an opening, making these holes in the walls are vital to surviving the level.

The means by which you’ll move the blocks is a simple point-and-click interface. Just click a block, then click one of the boxes next to it horizontally or vertically to switch places. It’s a simple, yet effective game play strategy, and Exocubes makes it work great with the mouse. This is the main method for moving blocks into place and clearing them, but there are other options.

Most of these other options revolve around using items, like bombs that you’ll find within the wall. When the scanner runs over these bombs, they’ll detonate, taking out blocks within their blast radius. However, the different types of bombs and items are color-coded and will only activate if they’re in a horizontal or vertical row of similarly colored blocks. Other items will already be in play on some levels, such as a stationary laser placed at the bottom of the screen that will shoot out a block above it each time the scanner passes over it. The items contained within Exocubes add an additional and welcome level of strategy to the game.

Exocubes makes use of some simple graphic designs for the scanner, blocks, and transitions between different puzzles, but those simple designs are so finely tuned and polished that they look great. Exocubes even has a nicely animated opening video featuring the Cubert character, and while it doesn’t really add anything to the game, it’s a nice little touch that makes Exocubes that much better.

The game contains seven original music tracks, each unique and fitting for this game. Like in Lumines, the music helps add to the experience, but unlike Lumines, the scanners don’t move in sync with the beat of the music. That’s fine in Exocubes, because you’ll be more focused on frantically moving blocks around to remove them from play.

With about 50 levels and an adjustable level of difficulty, there’s plenty of replay value in Exocubes. Add to the fact that the puzzles do get harder and more complex, resulting in more “Game Over” screens at higher levels, and you might spend a lot of time replaying the game just to get to the end.

Considering that this is Gameeel’s first major attempt at making a PC game, I was quite surprised by the level of fun and the ease of game play that Exocubes has. While it shares some similarities to Lumines, Exocubes brings a few elements from other puzzle games and combines them into a great experience.

Download the demo

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About Brian Szabelski