Death by Cube seems filled with some sort of anti-fun element. One of the worst games on Xbox Live Arcade
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 is 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 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 you 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 as if you 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 though 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.