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PSP Preview - 'Cube'

by Andrew Hayward on April 19, 2007 @ 6:36 a.m. PDT

Cube is a highly addictive strategy/puzzle game that challenges players to make their way through suspended 3D worlds of platforms and mazes.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: D3Publisher of America
Developer: Metia Interactive
Release Date: April 24, 2007

Fresh off the surprise success of its phenomenally addictive Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, D3Publisher of America is back with Cube, a budget-priced puzzler for the PlayStation Portable. Cube is a 3D navigational brain-bender in which you must guide the titular object around an obstacle course of sorts. Though it bears the visual mark of puzzle favorites like Devil Dice and Intelligent Qube, two other distinctly different games came to mind as I played a near-final build: Mercury Meltdown and Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions.

In the Mercury games, your mission was to guide a shiny blob to a goal by tilting the environments, but it was never actually that simple. Along the way, you would have to find ways to change the color of the blob, or split it up into parts to end up at multiple finishing points. While Cube gives you control of the actual object — not the environment — you will still be tasked with avoiding hazards and moving things around to reach the finishing block. The basic experiences are rather similar, but the games differ greatly in execution.

So where does a game like Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions come into play? It mainly has to do with the look of the game, but the core concept also carries over nicely. Replace the virtual guards with rotating bombs and odd traps and you essentially have the basic concept of Cube. As with those guards, the bombs have obvious patterns that can be avoided, but you can also manipulate those patterns by picking up and then placing a panel that redirects the route of any bomb that passes over it.

But maybe I'm getting too complex with the comparisons to a tactical espionage action offshoot. Let's start over — Cube is a game in which you move your player cube along a series of interconnected cubes that eventually lead to a goal. By moving along every face of the environmental cubes (one panel at a time, via the d-pad), you can avoid hazards like bombs (rotating or stationary), sinking panels, and breakaway cubes. For example, if there is a stationary bomb immediately in front of where you are (on a singular path of environmental cubes), you can move to the left or right and navigate around the bomb by moving along the sides of the stage.

It's a pretty easy concept to get a hang of at first, but the variety of hazards necessitates a trip through the comprehensive tutorial. Sure, you can probably do without, but it seemed well worth the 10 minutes to learn about everything in advance. As you progress through the game's 135+ unique stages, take notice of the two timers that initially appear on-screen. While the longer time dictates how much time you have to reach the goal, the shorter, gold-colored timer challenges you to collect all of the optional keys scattered around the course and get to the finish block before it runs out. Doing so will earn players a gold medal, and accruing a certain amount of these medals will presumably unlock Cube's nine bonus levels.

Cube also features an intuitive level editor, which allows players to easily place hazards and create stages to share via an Ad Hoc connection. While I did not have a chance to try out the multiplayer aspects of the game, Cube is set to feature 36 levels of battle or co-op play, with another 16 levels set aside for play via Game Sharing. Additionally, any created levels can be used for multiplayer, though it remains to be seen if it is only for Ad Hoc or also Game Sharing.

The aforementioned VR Missions influence is felt largely in the area of visual presentation. Each stage floats in mid-air, set upon a simplistic, colored background. Extra effort could have been spent on jazzing up the visuals, but that would have probably bumped up the price a bit. All things considered, the look of the cubes is hardly going to be a divisive element with this game.

Cube could be a solid, affordable pick-up for those who have already burned through Puzzle Quest and other recent handheld mind-melters. In fact, if you do have Puzzle Quest for PSP, be sure to check out the playable demo of Cube on the disc. The eight sample levels offer a comprehensive starting point for those not familiar with the concept. Everyone else — check back in the near future for a full review of this budget-priced portable puzzler.

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