Cubetractor is a game straight from the emerging indie scene in China. It won China’s “Best Game” at IGF in 2012, which is a big deal when you consider that the team at Ludochip consisted of only 2 developers behind this. Now that it has worked its way onto Steam, we can see if the game lives up to its potential.
As a rule of thumb, games with the words tractor and cube hardly fail me. So the bar has been set.
On the surface, Cubetractor really brings me back to the SNES days where I would play Goof Troop. I honestly think that this could be the equivalent of this generation’s Goof Troop. It’s not open like Goof Troop was, but the static level-by-level progression paired with the top-down puzzle mechanics really pulls it all together.
I guess that’s as good of a segue as you can get. Pulling things together is the name of the game for Cubetractor. You, as an experimental robot with a big red smile set to traverse through your teacher’s obstacle course by finding a way to pass through level after level of lasers turrets and attack robots. The only means of defense you have in all of this is the ability to launch cubes at yourself by pulling them through some magnetic force. Once you dodge them, you can then hit your enemy units and allow you to advance once they are all destroyed.
It is a frustrating and somewhat satisfying mechanic as you hurl blocks at yourself in an attempt to bash an enemy. Stupid mistakes will always be inevitable with this formula, but since the mechanics are so solid, your only frustrations will be directed at yourself. Which is good, because the game then starts to add layers on top of launching blocks.
Crafting items has become the new thing to do in many games and and Cubetractor is no exception. Though it isn’t all that complicated. Usually when you hurtle two bricks at each other, they break. In this game however, they transform into something magical. Bringing any of the 3 different cubes together creates objects like turrets, hot tubs or generators. You have about six different options in game total and the developers really took a focus to polishing what goes where, so the system works really well.
Combining items is a huge focus which requires you to time the placement of when two objects collide. When the game really picks up and becomes more hectic, you’ll be running away from Octopus things while dodging turrets and your own blocks careening towards you at the same time. For those looking to obtain the title of “Master” on each level, this can be pretty daunting without real skill.
Currently, there are plans to rerelease Cubetractor with an HD remake and multiplayer and, to be honest, that is what is really needed to push this game to another level. While they are throwing around the term competitive for the multiplayer, I would hope they would attempt a co-operative feature as well. Throwing cubes around at each other should be a blast with friends and that makes much more sense to me personally than updating the sprites. Two players throwing bricks at each other in an attempt to speed run through the game seems like it could be an appealing option that just didn’t get thrown in here.
Though I kind of like the retro appeal the game holds, it just needs to add a bit more to liven up level-to-level playthroughs. It’s not too inhibiting because you focus on the puzzle elements more than the fact that you keep playing on grass and rock backgrounds, but it is noticeable. This game is stylized to look like an old SNES top-down puzzle game, and it fills my nostalgic heart full of warm fuzzies. I just wish the developers went forward and added a bit more focus on differentiating these backgrounds.
The soundtrack can do with a bit more padding out as well, though that is only a small gripe.
Cubetractor has some interesting mechanics put into a retro-style puzzle game. I think there could be a bit more to the game than what we got here (and the developers seem to agree with the HD remake talk), but what they did achieve is a unique and fun little title worthy of your attention. It has been 20 years since I’ve played a game like Goof Troop on the SNES and I’m surprised at how much I missed this style of game.
It took 2 men to make Cubetractor into something surprisingly pleasing. I was forced to dock points because this game could be something more than it is currently and because it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, I must accommodate that. I have to say though that I can’t wait to see what Ludochip has in store for the future and as a first step, it was fun.
[+Interesting Puzzle Mechanics] [+Well Done Spritework] [+Solid Gameplay] [-Not A Lot of Audio or Visual Diversity]