Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin rollin’ JUMP! Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ JUMP!
Not so long ago, I looked at a speed based puzzle game called Tiles, and whilst I felt it had a few nice ideas, it’s execution and aesthetic were fairly weak. Cublast HD takes that reaction focused puzzle idea, cleans up some of the mechanics and gives it a nice modern sheen, making something a little more impressive. Whilst it’s not without its flaws, it’s certainly a fun, challenging and well presented game.
Cublast HD looks great straight away, with clean, well presented, and easily navigated menus. This also translates into the game itself with bright colours standing out against the minimalist backgrounds, ensuring your focus is always where it needs to be. Collectibles stand out against the background, spikes are immediately obvious, and the functions of different buttons can be ascertained quickly, which is important in this game as you’ll see.
The objective of Cublast HD is to get your ball to the exit. Why? Because the game says so, that’s why! This is a puzzle platformer of sorts, so the reasons aren’t terribly important, but along the way on each stage you can collect Blastpoints that are used to unlock future levels. Collecting these is simply a case of having your ball roll over (or simply come into contact with) the tile they are on. How you do this is the fun bit though: you control the level, not the ball. Moving your analogue stick (which is much easier than using a keyboard by the way) tilts the level left or right which will cause your ball to roll in the appropriate direction whether grounded or in the air. You can press A (or space) to jump, including a wall jump, to allow you to access higher areas. This is all explained without text, and the game expects you to figure out what to do for yourself. But with a system this simple, doing so isn’t challenging.
What can be challenging though, is the content of some of the levels. Spikes will (of course) kill you on contact, falling off the level will lead to your demise and being crushed by scenery will have similar results. Failure is a regular occurrence, especially if you try to get all of the Blastpoints in each level. Whilst you don’t need to collect them all to progress to the next stage, unlocking future sets of levels is based on you having collected enough blast points. Thankfully deaths reset you back to the beginning of the stage quickly, allowing you to have another go at it with limited penalties.
This is very much a game based on your ability to find, plan, and flawless execute a route throughout the level to collect everything and reach the exit. I sometimes find these games a little irritating as once you know the best way to complete a level it can be frustrating to have a mistimed jump ruin your run and send you back to the start. This game does cause that annoyance in me, but that may well be down to my lack of skill rather than an issue with the game. Super Meat Boy annoyed me for the same reason! What can be annoying is that each level can be difficult to find your way around, and whilst the level select screen includes a map of the level, once playing there is no way to get an overview of the whole stage. This means that often you’ll find yourself failing repeatedly the first time you play a level just to find your way around. Occasional leaps of faith, hidden spikes, and even levels that block you from completing them if you don’t press the correct buttons served to annoy me and in some instances a pause menu map would have helped alleviate those frustrations. Often you’ll achieve victory by memorising a path and hoping you have the dexterity to pull it off this time. It’s often fun, but sometimes became frustrating when the physics doesn’t quite work the way you had hoped on that attempt.
Some maps have additional complexities, such as jump pads, switches that require blocks placed on them, or devices that alter the direction of gravity. There certainly are quite a lot of levels with a good variety of challenges in the base game, but the level editor allows you to create your own challenges and sample those created by the community. There are currently over 100 player created levels, some of which use the game’s mechanics in interesting ways that I didn’t see in the base game. There’s plenty of longevity here assuming the community continues to grow. The game also features a local co-op and vs. mode. These are fine (although being local only on PC is not ideal) but I was disappointed to find that moving the level only effects the ball of the player that moved it rather than both. Whilst from a puzzle standpoint I understand why this was the case, having to think creatively and use blockades to separate the players could have been really interesting.
The music and sound effects are fine (get used to hearing that death sound effect!) but are fairly nondescript. The music is nice and light, but it doesn’t seem to change much and it will become repetitive fairly rapidly. To be honest I got to the point where I stopped noticing it was there. Either the game was a very zen experience or the music was somewhat forgettable for me. For a game with such great presentation, this was a little disappointing.
Cublast HD is a fun, fast paced puzzle game for those with the dexterity to pull it off. There’s a good amount of content for the entry fee in the base game and plenty more to come over time. The developers have said there are more levels to be released and the communities efforts will see the number of stages grow. It should be noted that this game is also available on iPhone and Android, and whilst the tilt controls are fun, I found it more difficult to control. I look forward to coming back and trying the new developer created levels in the future. What’s another 1000 deaths anyway?