When I look back at old NES games and the like, I think about just how far gaming has come. Most games being released today are a far cry from their 8-bit forefathers, which mostly featured a lone gunner of some kind and plenty of things to destroy… Okay, that doesn’t sound so different from modern games. What’s different is the presentation; the top-down view, the cheesy sound effects, and of course the staggering difficulty and sheer mayhem of later levels. There are a host of games on Xbox Live Marketplace that remain true to old-school action games while maintaining a charming personal twist, and Death by Cube belongs to this group.


Death by Cube deviates from the typical old-school-inspired action game by adding an economy system, which means that the player must collect gold in order to access new levels and avatars. Though the robot you start with is relatively weak, after a few levels you can probably purchase a better model that can perform longer dashes, fire better projectiles, or sacrifice defence for an increase in offensive ability. This adds layers of depth to the game that wouldn’t otherwise be there, including better replay value.

As with most games of its kind, Death by Cube is relatively easy to get used to, and eventually becomes pretty exciting to play. Eventually you’ll have dozens of cubes crowding you at once, and when that time comes you’ll probably have mastered the controls and be powerful enough to reduce them to a massive red stain. The learning curve is gentle, so within half an hour you should be dashing, shooting, and shielding like a pro.


Though the game is usually a lot of fun, something about the gameplay just seems… Cramped. With how far and how quickly you can dash, you can often be across the stage in a second. This often makes it difficult to outmanoeuvre your enemies, and you’ll find yourself trapped in a corner many times throughout the course of the campaign. It comes to feel very natural always having so little space to work with, but I feel the game could have been improved by throwing in a few more stages of greater size that host more enemies.

Here’s the deal

I’ve seen games like this before and liked them immensely. Death by Cube gets many things right, such as its tight and simple control style and the ability to improve your avatar. The gameplay itself is pure, hectic fun. It was such a solid foundation that the game could have had much grander confrontations on larger playing fields, not just for technical reasons but for difficulty’s sake as well. Overall it’s a solid addition to Xbox Live Arcade, but it might not encourage competitive high-scoring with those on your friends list like other, similar games tend to do. Mike D. 7/10

~ by consolecreatures on January 28, 2010.


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