If you ever wanted to see what happens when playing with Lego gets violent, then perhaps the Cubemen series is the closest you’ll get. Cubemen is a tower defense style strategy game series where you get to control faceless armed cubemen against waves of enemies, potentially sending them to their death. Following Cubemen, released just over a year ago, Cubemen 2 brings in some updates while keeping the base game more or less the same.
Just like its predecessor, Cubemen 2 allows the player to control, well, cubemen, who are armed with various weapons from the standard pistol, to a flamethrower, mortar, and laser snipers. Being able to choose from 9 varieties of overprotective armed dudes, your job is to strategically place them around the map in order to stop waves of enemies from reaching your base. Of course, strategy must be balanced with a good kill ratio – killing enemy units earns you more cubes, which you use to purchase more cubemen to make your army.
Unlike your typical tower defense games, most of your cubemen are movable at any time, and will continue to fire while moving around whilst the enemy is in range. The benefit of this is that you can often move them before enemy fire hits them. The downside is that this doesn’t always work, depending on the enemy’s weapons. In some cases, repositioning your little guys is necessary as loot crates drop from the unseen sky, helping you or hurting any enemies on the map.
Another annoyance I faced is the targeting system. For example, while I am able to choose which approaching enemy I’d prefer my sniper to shoot at, he seemed to decide “nope, I don’t like this guy”. After insisting on shooting a different enemy, the immediate threat eventually took my sniper out. Suddenly, I’m out of 70 cubes and the enemy is walking around like they own the place. Thankfully, my guys usually choose the right target. Just don’t expect them to take orders 100% of the time.
While being short on cubes may require you to sell some of your unused cubemen – something I hadn’t found I needed to do yet, one addition to Cubemen 2 is the ability to upgrade your units. Rather than relying on flooding your enemy with firepower, upgrading is usually a cheaper option which heals your units while making them stronger, all while saving those precious cubes.
Depending on your chosen game mode and map your style of play may need to change. Cubemen 2 currently has 20 maps, with two main single player only campaigns and 3 single player or multi-player modes. Single player defense is your standard tower defense gameplay: kill the enemy waves before they reach your base and wipe out your lives. Rescue automatically ups the stakes as you’re required to defend a line of unarmed civilians making their way from point to point.
If you want to play against friends or more than one enemy, Skirmish allows you to play against bots or humans in the same tower defense style. Capture the flag is exactly how it sounds – steal the enemy flag while protecting your own. Finally, territory mode requires you to “paint” the map in your team’s colours by walking over the tiles, which enemies can flip to their colours by walking back over them. Whoever has the most coloured tiles at the end of the timer wins.
In addition to each game mode, there are advanced options that increase difficulty, game length, number of players, tower locations, and other configurations that can make the game as challenging or relaxing as you’d like. Depending on your tower defense prowess, these may be the first options you want to check as the game can feel a little slow at the default newbie level. At more challenging levels, the cube-earning bottleneck can simply become frustrating as tiny red enemies can overrun you and leisurely stroll around your map. However, should you stick it out and beat the various game modes, or you just want another map, Cubemen 2 also includes a level editor as well as an ability to share created levels online.
Customisation doesn’t end with how you play the game, but also what you see. Just like it’s predecessor, Cubemen 2 allows you to customize not only your cubemen but also the maps, though this time round there are more options. If you’re not satisfied with choices such as a soldier skins, clowns or robots, to name a few, there are also purchasable options such as the Terminators, zombies or space men for $0.99. Likewise, map themes run from medieval, highlands and Aztec to purchasable options like Tron-style grids and Minecraft-inspired tiles. The skins and themes are quality, which suits the improved clean interface of Cubemen 2 itself.
Other improvements to Cubemen 2 include changes to the camera movement, which is now quicker and smoother, and encompases the top down view which is oh-so-helpful on various maps. The soundtrack and sound effects have also had a little bit of work – while the title theme and sound effects have had a little tweaking, the improvement still seems cleaner without ruining the feel of the original Cubemen. Most thankfully, they got rid of that annoying fanfare on the map start, replacing it with a more ominous countdown timer – a great sound that gets you a little more pumped to kick some cubemen ass.
Is it revolutionary? No. Is it fun? Yes, if tower defense is your thing. For a lover of tower defense games, I like that Cubemen 2 throws some options at you, increases playability, and allows you to make levels. On the other hand, despite the mobility and the game’s quick escalation, it still feels slower than other popular tower defense games like Dungeon Defenders and its third-person character control. It’s a fun change and a definite novelty, with a great soundtrack to boot, but overall I’d rather put my towers in someone else’s yard.
Developer: Seon Rozenblum
Publisher: 3 Sprockets
Release: 8th April 2013 (PC – Coming Soon to iOS/Mac App Store)