Death By Cube Hands-On

Robots hate cubes. Cubes hate robots. It's a recipe for bloody fun in this two-stick shooter from Square Enix.

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What's the one thing robots fear more than anything? If you answered "sentient cubes that explode in gushes of gore when shot," then congratulations, you have an incredible insight into the robot mind. Bad news for them then--because that's exactly the foes that our robot friends will face in the upcoming Xbox Live game from Square Enix, Death By Cube. We had a chance to play the game at the Square Enix booth on the show floor of the 2009 Tokyo Game Show and came away mightly impressed.

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At its heart, Death By Cube is a two-stick shooter a la Robotron 2084. The left stick is used to move your little robot (which bears a slight resemblance to Eve from the film WALL-E) around a square white grid. The right stick is used to fire your weapon, and you can fire in any direction. Enemies appear from all directions--the first enemies we faced were slow-moving black cubes that didn't pose much of a threat but exploded in the most over-the-top torrents of blood this side of the God of War series.

In later levels, we were introduced to truly pesky cubed enemies--like a swarm of smaller cubes that moved quickly and would immediately try to surround our fighting robot, as well as gigantic cubes that were tougher to kill. By the end of a level, it was common to be surrounded by enemies, just holding on by the skin of our teeth. Different levels have different shaped playing fields too--not just the simple square surface of the first level.

While our robot was severely outnumbered, he was far from helpless. In addition to a standard laser weapon that we could upgrade with pickups found in the level, we had a few other tricks. Pressing the right bumper or right trigger would pop up a temporary shield that would block incoming projectiles. Pressing the left bumper or left trigger would lay down a holographic decoy, which would temporarily distract enemies, giving us time to blast a few more of them. In addition, during one level we found a massive blaster that sent out a huge beam of energy that annihilated anything in its path. A few 360 revolutions with that bad boy and our cube-based enemy problem was solved...temporarily.

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We're not sure if Death By Cube is bound for the States or elsewhere, but we can say unequivocally that we had a great time playing it--if for no other reason than that helping our robotic pals blast some evil cubes to gory bits is just as fun as it sounds. Here's hoping Square Enix decides to bring this one to XBL outside of Japan.

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