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Casual Game of the Week: 'Exocubes' Review (PC)


In this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we'll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Exocubes

Given the amount of cube related puzzle games out there in existence and the way they can be so dominating and frustrating, it's a surprise people haven't started developing phobias of cubes. I know whenever I try to tackle a Rubix Cube I just want to scream about the colors and how they are corroding my inner soul! Okay, maybe that's just me, but if that cube is easy for you, maybe the challenging Exocubes would be right up your alley.

Exocubes follows the standby of connecting three or four of the same color either in a row horizontally or vertically in order to clear those from the screen. Once three or more are grouped, you usually click on them to pop them or they automatically disappear, forming combo chains along the way if other combos drop into place. While many of those elements are still at play in Exocubes, things are done a bit differently than usual.

First up, you'll have to make matches by dragging blocks into place, but unlike some other games, in Exocubes you can only drag the cubes you've clicked either up or down. Given the fact that there is no side-to-side swapping, things get mighty quick and challenging fast. Secondly, the game has a Lumines vibe to it, thanks in part to the techno influenced background music and technocolored backgrounds, but more than that there is a scrolling sensor that climbs from the bottom of the screen upwards, and once the scanner hits one of your block parings, then the blocks will drop to the bottom of the screen, hitting a wall at the bottom which must have each piece broken away in order to clear the stage. The bottom wall can be several hits deep, and sometimes you'll even find pieces that move, making it really take some thinking or strategy to finally do away with that pesky piece.

In order for you to properly get rid of a grouping of colored cubes, at least one of them has to have its bottom edge actually be hit by the scanner, with no other blocks in its way. So, if you create an up and down pairing of four but there are two blocks underneath it, the grouping won't fall to the bottom of the screen since other blocks are blocking you and they aren't going to move. However, if you create a line of four, for example, and only three of them have blocks underneath them, the whole string will fall as well as any blocks under those three pieces that are blocked. It takes some time to get used to and is a bit difficult to figure everything out, but with enough play the rules start getting more and more clearer and easier to understand.

As you advance through the levels, you'll get different powerup blocks, which when combined into a pairing will make several different things happen, like all the bricks around the combo blowup, having a pattern in the shape of a cross explode from that pinpoint brick, and there are several others as well. You've also got bricks to cause you trouble, such as locked bricks which you can't move, but instead have to build pairings around.

You've got two different game modes, but they are basically the same game, only with one the level progression starts sooner, with locked puzzle pieces, for example, being introduced into play way earlier than usual. On the technical side of things, the more muted cube colors can be a little boring at times, but the vibrant fluorescent backgrounds help give the game some life and ratchet up the excitement. The sound work is also very good, featuring a lot of dancing techno tracks, but every so often it breaks things up and gives a bit of techno country to the mix, which doesn't sound as bad as that description makes it seem. Beyond the music, the sound of blocks comboing together and breaking the wall at the bottom of the screen is also nicely done, featuring a strong crashing sound.

Exocubes is a fun game, but it lacks the gameplay innovation one would want from an ailing genre mechanic in some regards, and it doesn't offer up enough gameplay modes to keep you playing for a very long time. However, if you like your match three games and the idea of one of those being blended with a Lumines style, you just might find yourself enjoying Exocubes.

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