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Score: 83%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Ludochip
Developer: Ludochip
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Arcade/ Classic/Retro/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:

Glorious old-school graphics abound in Cubetractor. This game is a celebration of what passed for good looks back in the early '90s, which has the benefit of making it run super fast on a modern PC. The color palette is nicely varied to show the landscape you explore as you move through the world of Cubetractor, with definition provided by shading and small design touches rather than anything 3D. Although it is a de facto 2D world, Cubetractor feels rich and detailed, more like some of the best RPG titles we played on first-gen consoles than the formulaic arcade platformers.

Playing as a robot that pulls cubes sounds like a hard character sketch, but the makers of Cubetractor managed to fill the world with lots of interesting interactions and created a hero that is defined early on by quirky and funny dialogue between other characters you meet. It's a game with a good sense of humor, very aware that it is living in a post-Mega Man world. In the same vein, Cubetractor features music and sound effects that sound almost like they’ve been pulled from a time machine. There is just enough variation at all times to show that this throwback approach is less about imitation and more about honoring a style of gaming that is worth preserving.


Cubetractor gives most of its gameplay away in the title. It's a game about pulling cubes around, but think tractor-beam rather than the kind being driven around fields by farmers. Remember trying to describe Portal to people? "It’s a game about making holes where you go in one hole and come out the other holes!" The predictable response of, "...and that is awesome, why?" is a legitimate first bid when first hearing about Cubetractor, but trust us when we say that it all works magnificently. The complexity of pulling cubes stacks with each level and is surrounded by enough story to make you feel you're part of something bigger than just a series of physics' experiments.

Don't think of Tetris. You're not stacking cubes as much as using them for offense and defense on a real-time battlefield. Each level is a board you'll need to conquer, with some enemies lined up in static positions, while others roam around after you. The simplest action is to smash enemies with cubes. Beyond that, you'll find that some cubes combine to form turrets, while others combine to form protective battlements. This combination of structures that attack on your behalf and others that protect you from harm is the foundation of Cubetractor, and from there, it's all about variation in level layout and enemy placement. After you've exhausted the available levels, you can go back through on speed runs to test your skill.


The skill level required for the game is based on your ability to think smartly about a strategy to defeat each level, combined with the dexterity required to move around and time your attacks. Cubetractor isn't a game where you overpower the enemy or build up an arsenal. As you're fortifying, expect the enemy to be picking away at your battlements. Your turrets are just mirror images of those on the enemy side, so a well-played level is all about speed and timing. Losing health means a do-over, but you can pick up the occasional health drop to keep things balanced. Cubetractor features a series of tutorials early in the game that do a great job of teaching basic mechanics. Since these are required levels at first, it's literally impossible to get in over your head. People who equate vintage graphics with simplistic gameplay will be surprised to find that things get challenging quickly in Cubetractor, but those of us raised on 8- or 16-bit titles understand that this is just another example of how it's possible to combine simple elements and create something really engaging.

Game Mechanics:

A perfect illustration of this principle is the control scheme for Cubetractor, where six buttons do all the work. It mainly comes down to four buttons, mapped to the arrow buttons. You'll move the hero character with these controls, and use one other button to trigger the tractor beam that pulls cubes toward you. Having to think about pulling rather than pushing keeps this from feeling like a 2D shooter. You'll learn to navigate around the level fluidly with the arrow keys, target cubes by facing them, and then pull them toward you while making sure to quickly get out of their way. After a few levels this becomes second nature, but it does feel novel at first. Like most throwback or classic arcade games, Cubetractor is not very forgiving, so expect some slaps-forehead moments as you pull cubes into yourself because of poor timing.

Timing is everything, but once you master the controls, you'll focus more on following the exploits of Endroi, the game's so-called "happy-go-lucky quadrubot," and just enjoy the flow from level to level. If retro games are your thing, you'll burn through the available levels and come away wanting more. Sure, you don't get epic adventure and role-playing, or the satisfaction of growing a criminal empire in Vice City, but Cubetractor satisfies the basic urge we all have as gamers: We love to explore and use our imagination in a way that tests our skills just enough to make keep things challenging, without distracting us from the feeling of exploration and fun. Recommended.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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