Death by Cube:Xbox Live Arcade Developer:Premium Agency Publisher:Square Enix
Is Death by Cube the worst game on Xbox Live Arcade? Well as long as Discs Of Tron is still available for download, Death by Cube should be safe. It is however one of the most misguided games I simply have ever played.
Death by Cube is a twin stick shooter. Now I know that I mentioned a few days ago in my Blacklight: Tango Down review that online death match was an awfully crowded field, but compared to dual-stick shooters online death match are a Montezuma Orchid.
On XBOX Live arcade alone one can choose from such varied dual-stick shooters such as Geometry Wars or Zombie Apocalypse, but it is on the XBOX Indie service that dual stick shooters have mushroomed. It is really common sense after all. Robotron 2084 was released all the way back in 1982 and the tech for your average dual-stick shooter is certainly in reach for the basement developer. In addition, unlike say top down racers, dual stick shooters are as much fun now as they were back then.
Well twin stick shooters are as much fun as Robotron 2086 if they are done right. Death by Cube developer Premium Agency didn't seem to get the memo from 1982 that twin stick shooters were about fun, usually fairly mindless fun admittedly, but fun nevertheless. Death by Cube on the other hand seems filled with some sort of anti-fun element. For one thing the game constantly spams you with enemies appearing under your "feet" causing an instant kill. This means that surviving every level is as much a matter of chance as it is skill. To combat this the game introduces special moves that randomly shoot you across the board and stun a few enemies. An advancement in dual stick shooting game play I personally guarantee we will never see again.
And of course we don't want to let the players get big-headed with success, so Death by Cube lets you advance (and buy useless upgrades) with points that are dolled out like Bumble the Beadle serving orphans their daily gruel. So the drudgery of playing the same level eight or nine times quickly comes apparent. (One of the reasons we like to beat levels is so we don't have to actually play them again. Something clearly not grasped by the good folks at Premium Agency.)
As if this horse wasn't dead enough, the story and visuals chop off its head and leave it in the players bed while they are sleeping. The plot is that you are an amnesic robot (I swear Japan must have some sort of amnesia plague if video games from there are any indication. Perhaps it is from collectively forgetting all those war crimes during the forties. By the way, when I say "the plot is you are an amnesic robot". I don't mean the plot is you are an amnesic robot and then you save the princess or invent a new use for squid. I mean the entire plot is simply that you are an amnesiac robot.) The setting is a cross between Wall-E and Portal. Both yourself and your cube adversaries are apparently robots of some sort. So why does the playing field look as if your battling zombie jelly donuts with a chainsaw in a blood bank?
This bloodbath, despite making it harder to see what you are doing it, adds a distasteful what the hell to game play. All this blood letting serves seemingly no purpose at all. Even more bizarre, every time you die the game splashes the fourth wall with even more blood. It's as if you showed up to the Red Dead Redemption Thanksgiving table and John Marston is carving the turkey.
I like dual-stick shooters quite a bit and in my wildest dreams I never thought anyone could cock it up quite so thoroughly and still get published. I guess that is one thing the developers at Premium Agency can hang their hat on.
Score: Not even a dollar
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Now usually I leave the commenting on other reviews to my review round-ups but glancing over some of the Metacritic scores I feel the need to call some folks out. Now I understand that I dislike some game that other may enjoy. I may not like that particular genre, I found the game to easy or to hard, or perhaps I am not a pedophile and enjoy adults in my JPRGs.
In any case I usually give the benefit of the doubt (Glass houses and all that). Death by Cube however simply doesn't fit the "benefit of the doubt criteria" I like the genre and am reasonably skilled at it. In addition Death by Cube is such a misguided affair I had to wonder about the reaction from other critics.
Well the bottom of Metacritics board is filled with the big boys (IGN, Gamespot, 1up Eurogamer) are all under 50. G4 television network which wasn't listed gave it a fairly damning two stars in a vicious review.
At the top of the Metacritic board is Xbox Addict review who manged an 82 and sounds like a freakin press release (They praise the fact it has a story), though in their defense they did mention the progression issues.
TeamXbox found the graphics both cute and leaving a lot to be desired. They were however fascinated by the limited and punishing upgrade system so perhaps a Mechwarrior game might make a good Christmas gift for the review team.
But the winner for worst review easily goes to Gamer 2.0 who manages to trash the game completely in the written review "DBC is fun for a good thirty minutes, and after that you are better off putting it down, which is not worth the 800 Microsoft Points ($10) to download. Just go for the trial version." and then giving it the third highest score. Having ones cake and eating it too I see. If the game isn't worth downloading how can you then give a score that recommends purchase?
In all fairness Gamer 2.0 is hardly the first review site to giveth with the score and taketh with the review (half the reviews of Crackdown 2 seem guilty of this), but this is a practice I will continue to expose in my own tilting at windmills kind of way.