Death By Cube Impressions: One Of TGS' Bloodiest

Who can resist trying a game called Death By Cube? Not I.

In the rear of the Square-Enix booth, away from the crowds lined up for anything and everything Final Kingdom Quest, I found Death By Cube.

It is an upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game developed by a studio called Premium Agency, and it will cause your robot hero to meet it’s death by cube on a minimalist battlefield that looks like graph paper.

The game is a twin-stick shooter that allows levelling up and sometimes requires defence of a base. The enemies are cubes, sized both big and small. They scurry or shoot toward your hero. Cubes can kill, but they die in a bloody splash. Many cubes can be killed per second, splattering much of the level in crimson. This little game might well have been the bloodiest game at the Tokyo Game Show. Is there an award for that?

Racing to comprehend the game in the five minutes I could enjoy before being ejected by Square-Enix personnel, I tried two tutorial missions and then a regular mission. Missions are unlocked by spending in-game coins. You even pay for the tutorial. (Death by in-game capitalism?)

Our robot in this game initially shoots a standard hyphen of laser. He is moved by the left analogue stick and he shoots with tilts of the right. As he kills more cubes and picks up dropped items, he can level up to fire a double shot, and later, who knows what else (Scan the screenshot here and guess with me). He can also emit a shield bubble, though I didn’t have much success with that. The two-line press kit explanation of the game suggests that the shield should be used to deflect enemy lasers.

The key novel mechanic in Death By Cube seemed to be the robot’s ability to dash. You dashing with a pull of one of the controller’s triggers, as you push an analogue stick in the direction you want to zip. The ideal target is a cluster of cubes. Your hope is to turn these malevolent black enemy shapes yellow with confusion. This causes them to momentarily stop attacking and become easier targets. Dashing a bunch caused “mass confusion”, though I am not sure what more that accomplished. Somehow, I was earning score multipliers.

The one regular mission I played required me to protect a basic cylinder of a base. Waves of enemies rushed to the base. Just shooting back proved to be insufficient, as the base blew up quickly during my first attempt to defend it. For my second try, I chose to dash a lot. This caused some of the level’s new robot enemies to stop shooting at the base. With my robot I shot them to bloody splotches and then retreated to the base. Standing next to the structure repaired it.

The game’s instructional text was presented to me in English, but with limited time and no English-speaking personnel nearby to help, I can only guess that I experienced all of the game’s important elements. What I think I played, and what I enjoyed in this short burst, was a twin-stick shooter designed for more strategic, map-specific combat. That sets it apart from the many wide-open, non-stop twin-stick shooters already available on Xbox Live Arcade. And that interests me enough to want to play more.


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