Cubixx HD takes a little while to click – the initially deceptively simple gameplay soon making way for frantic attempts at high scoring combos and ever more daring, dangerous leaps of faith across every face on the cube. When it does, Laughing Jackal’s PlayStation 3 high definition, super slick upgrade of one of the best Minis made hovers on the cusp of absolute, delightful joy, its cool vector lines and repetitive backdrops combining with driving, bass-heavy rhythms and enough bleeps and bloops to make you think the likes of 90’s ravers Bassheads were involved. They weren’t, but Cubixx HD is unashamedly (back to the) old school in its styling.[videoyoutube]It is, however, based on age-old retro-happy principles. Its most obvious forefather is Taito’s arcade classic Qix, not least of all in terms of how the game plays – the player must hack away at a centrally pivoted hexahedron by forming squares on its surface (and completed loops are then cut into the shape revealing its internals) – but also visually, with similar aesthetics. This isn’t a problem, per se, but it’s worth noting that Cubixx HD’s influences are laid bare from the off – this is, despite the flashy graphics, old school gaming.
The aforementioned focus on scoring, too, lies at the heart of Cubixx even if the game manages to (at first, at least) hide this behind a completion percentage that gradually flicks upwards as you cut away each cube, showing how much of the surface you’ve currently broken away. The multiplier, which obviously affects your score in the most dramatic way, is a supremely balanced exercise in risk / reward, requiring the player to move onto other faces of the cube in a single continuous line (by holding down the cut button as you push against an edge) putting you in considerable peril by way of the game’s ranks of enemies but also increasing your potential score.
Some enemies, like the titular Cubixx, simply float around the surface aimless and are easily avoided in small numbers. However, along with the Homers (which reduce your speed) they’re deadly enough and one touch is enough to break your line (which, if you’re playing it right already trails around at least two or three other sides) and cause a lost life. Other enemies appear as you progress, including Asteroids and Black Holes, but thankfully they can only actually harm you if they make contact on the side that’s currently in use.
You’re generally safe whilst on lines you’ve already made – at least from the basic wandering bad guys – but Line Chasers will keep you on your toes and not everything on the cube can be destroyed (which is normally done by capturing them in squares) a fact that can lead to manic, crowded survival attempts as you forgo the combos and just try to chip away at that percentage value with less risky, smaller cutaways. Over the space of fifty levels the main mode grows in complexity and difficulty without ever sacrificing the core principles – and is a real challenge, especially as you can only save your progress after every five levels.
And speaking of which, Cubixx HD also sports a new Challenges mode, in which fifty more trials await your attention – these vary from simple score based missions to time attack runs and enemy dispatching and sit alongside the main Arcade mode neatly, even if the interface to get to them is a bit unwieldy. There’s more to this package, though – score attack, line attack and time attack considerably bolster the long term appeal, and if you’ve got mates round you and six others can play split screen either co-operatively or against each other. The modes all open up once you’re past the fifth Arcade mode level, so it won’t take long.
- A comprehensive update of a great Minis game.
- Plenty to do.
- Local multiplayer is great.
- Online leaderboards for everything.
- No online play.
- Iffy interface design.
That said, £6.29 is a little steep against what’s currently out there now on the market, though, perhaps throwing this out at something like £3.99 would have made it an instant must have. Still, it’s much better than the Minis version, even if it’s based on exactly the same principles, so if you liked what you played on the PSP – get this when it releases tomorrow.