In 2009 the iPhone was rising in prominence, putting a dent in the handheld market. iOS games like Canabalt, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump were available for less than a quid, making the £30 asking price for DS and PSP games seem steep. To counter this, Sony commissioned a range of ‘PlayStation minis’ – small downloadable PSP games at rock bottom prices.
Cubixx made its debut as a ‘mini’ before making the jump to PS3 in 2011. Eight years later, it has found its way to Switch. While the face of gaming has changed dramatically in the past eight years, we’re dealing with a puzzle game here. If there’s one genre always able to withstand the test of time, it’s the humble puzzler.
Cubixx puts a twist on the ‘80s arcade classic Qix. In Qix you had to section off parts of a square while avoiding enemies. Cubixx ups the ante by making you partition off part of a cube, thinking and moving in 3D space. You move along the edges while firing a moving laser across the cube’s face, before landing on another edge to cut more parts away.
Levels are completed by cutting away a certain percentage, and you can score bonuses by completing tasks quickly, or by moving from one face of the cube to another in a single, fluid, movement.
Complicating your efforts are enemies. Those found within the centre of the face are called Cubixx, and as you get later into the game you start encountering more. There are also Fuses, who will chase the line, and Clouds who will slow you down. Some enemies patrol the cube’s edges too, homing in and seeking you out.
It all comes together to make a neat, if frantic, puzzle game. Perfect for that ‘one more go’ feeling. In fact, it can be quite addictive, and the music gets you into that sensation of being in the zone, especially in the score attack mode.
It definitely has the feeling of something that’s been thought about and iterated on over a number of versions. Movement is slick and there’s a huge array of modes. The standard arcade mode is the first port of call, as you’d expect. Then there are the time-attack, score-attack, challenge and multiplayer modes. That last mode doesn’t quite hang together but it’s a nice enough inclusion. Not all of these modes are available from the outset, annoyingly, requiring headway through the arcade mode to unlock.
It’s also a shame that the presentation hasn’t had as much attention as the core gameplay. It can both look and feel like an upscaled PSP game at times, and even though developers Laughing Jackal have tried to spice up the graphics with a bit of a techno flourish, a complete overhaul of the UI would have been nice. It’s no longer fresh out of the box, shall we say.
Despite this, Cubixx is still a smart little puzzler. If you can get past some clunky visuals and UI, there’s a lot to like here. It’s also nice to return the series to its portable roots, fitting the Switch like a well-worn glove.