Cubemen 2 is a fast-paced, action-packed 3D real-time strategy game. Originally released on PC, it later made its way onto Mac and iOS devices. Now, it’s only the second ever cross-platform title to grace the Wii U, and developer 3 Sprockets’ first effort on the eShop. Players can also access all of the user-generated content which has built up since the game’s debut over a year ago in this definitive version.
Developer: 3 Sprockets
Review Platform: Wii U eShop
Also Available on: Steam, iOS
Price: £6.99, $7.99 €7.99
EU/NA Release Date: 04/09/14
Genre: Real-time strategy
Players: 6 players online
While newcomers might usually be intimidated by the tower defense genre, we’re happy to say that this needn’t be the case with Cubemen 2. The initial tutorials make it quick and easy to understand for anyone new to the strategy genre. It’s a simple concept, really – each side must protect their tower from their opponent. The characters you’ll be commanding are known as the ‘cubemen’. These small, blocky soldiers will automatically shoot any enemy in their range of attack. Using the GamePad, the player must select units to place on the field, which they are then able to move freely to any square on the map. Each unit is bought for a specific number of ‘cubes’ – the currency of the cubemen. To earn more cubes, you simply have to defeat enemy units or sell one of your existing units. You will use these units to ward off a set number of enemy waves as they continuously spawn from their tower. However, if an enemy unit manages to reach your base, you’ll lose a life, and if the total amount of lives are lost, it will result in a failure of your mission.
There are ten different cubemen available to purchase; the higher the cost, the more powerful and the larger the enemy-fire range the unit has. At first it may seem overwhelming, but you won’t find yourself unable to differentiate one cubeman from another, as each unit role is indicated by a name related to their weapon/ability. For example, Walys are some of the cheaper cubemen which turn into path-blocking walls when they reach their destination. Laslo wields a laser, while Sid has his sniper. It’s a small touch, but it’s a clever way to remind players of their cubemen’s abilities, and will come in handy as you become more adjusted to the gameplay mechanics.
However, there is a lot more depth to it as you are able to level up each unit three times. The upgrade cost depends on the cubeman selected, and won’t change in price for each new upgrade. Levelling a cubeman up will result in its health, attack range, and a few other stats increasing. The strategy really comes in here, as you must ration your cube count across new units, upgrades, etc while the money slowly trickles back to you, or you’re out of cash and forced to sell off your most powerful men. You’ll really start to enjoy the game more as you learn how to position your soldiers in the best spots for both the attack and defense advantage. This might mean placing a sniper as far away from the enemy base as possible, to seek out the enemies from afar, while you place wall units around the field to herd the enemies together to trap them and earn as many points and possible.
The camera might first appear slightly difficult and awkward to control using the GamePad, as you use the left stick to rotate the map, control camera movement with either touch screen or right stick and zoom in using the d-pad. With a little practice and adjustment, you’ll soon find selecting and commanding the various units spread across the map a cinch. The touch screen works a treat as moving and selecting units is a flawless and accurate method of control. However, you won’t find much use for your television screen, as the GamePad is perfect for off-TV play here. Looking away for so much as a second can completely throw you off and leave you vulnerable to attack from your opponent. Personally, it’s a much more comfortable experience in the hands and on your eyes to use the GamePad exclusively for play.
At first glance, the visuals seem fairly basic, but once you’ve chosen from a variety of skins for your cubemen, and selected a theme for the environment everything seems a lot more vibrant as the game appears to come to life. You’ll have no trouble identifying yours and enemy units as both side’s men are indicated by a specific colour – which is also changeable. The changes you make to these settings are purely for aesthetic purposes only and won’t affect the gameplay whatsoever. The seemingly Minecraft-inspired visuals and customisation options are certainly nice touches, giving colour and charm to what would be an extremely bland presentation without. From volcanic to medieval, to Aztec-inspired scenery, there’s a style to suit everyone’s tastes.
The level creator in Cubemen 2 is a great feature for those with creative flair. It allows you to completely shape your own stages, changing block size and the terrain theme within the constraints of the level requirements. After being ran through an error checker, if it doesn’t meet said requirements you won’t be able to publish the level online. And like the rest of the game, it’s completely accessible to newcomers, as you’re eased into crafting your own design. You can create levels as simple or as complex as you desire – heal stations and teleporters are optional objects to add if you fancy mixing up the gameplay.
Unfortunately for solo players, the two single-player campaigns don’t offer much at fifteen levels each. If you consider yourself a proficient strategy game player, you could easily fight your way through all in a few hours, as well as the 20 extra maps created by 3 Sprockets. This leaves you with little to do in terms of offline content. However, if you’re an OCD-type gamer, there is a whopping 59 in-game achievements to work your way through – some very difficult and time consuming to obtain.
Being one of the only cross-platform multiplayer Wii U games, expectations were high. The ability to play with PC, Mac, Linux and iOS players sounded like a dream come true. Sadly, the community just doesn’t seem to be there, as we’ve struggled to get even a few online matches against other human players. Yes, the vast amount of user-content is fantastic to see, but the problem is the servers are practically empty. This means if you want to get the most enjoyment out of the online play, you’ll need friends that also own the game.
In all, Cubemen 2 is a solid title for strategy fans, while also remaining accessible for newcomers to the genre. What it lacks in single-player content is made up for in its excellent gameplay, mass amount of user-created content and a kick-ass soundtrack. It’s sad to see the community is so small, but hopefully it’ll only continue to grow on the Wii U. Until then, buddy up and you’ll have a great time competing in the various game modes on offer.
Review code provided by Nnooo.