Pull Your Heart Out In Cubetractor

Cubetractor is like a game of tug of war where the opposing team is throwing rocks at you. Except the rocks are lasers and nobody actually remembered to bring a rope.

Though it borrows some tower defense staples, Cubetractor is primarily a puzzle game about pulling blocks around and making them bump into one another. The trick however isn’t so much in the actual pulling of blocks but in the timing and placement of them, each combination of two blocks producing a tower which is then used to destroy the pesky enemy towers that have been shooting you the whole time.

It sounds easy on paper, but Cubetractor is exceedingly good at taking its minimalistic design and turning it against you in ways that at times wager on the downright sadistic. More often than not though this only makes solving a level that much more satisfying, and because Cubetractor was built with symmetry of capability in mind it rarely feels as if you’re outmatched by your opponent. They just got there first (and probably cheated).

I also found it hard not to enjoy my time with Cubetractor because the game itself is so enthusiastic. Sure, your little blue robot might be enacting a destructive rampage disguised as a particularly explosive form of self-education, but they’re so doggone happy about it who has the heart to stop them? There is an absurdist charm to Cubetractor that is often hard to pin down, but it’s pervasive joy had me continuing to come back for more even as I was cursing the seeming impossibility of a given level.

The only time Cubetractor falls apart is when its puzzles begin to turn into a monotonous war of attrition, requiring you to brute force your way through enemies rather than defeat them strategically. This mostly happens in the later levels of the game, but it’s a sharp and dramatic decline in the overall quality of level designs that is even more unfortunate given how the game up to that point seemed so conscious of avoiding tedium.

Troublesome (and it should be said, optional) levels aside however, Cubetractor is a delight to unravel. It cleverly combines elements of more genres than are worth mentioning into a game that feels surprisingly fresh for all its recognizable parts. I was left feeling just slightly unsatisfied with the abruptness of the ending, but if it’s any indication of things to come, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the little robot that could [blow stuff up] and that’s not a bad thing by any means.

"Quick Thoughts" is a place for micro criticism, abstract musings, and shameless showcasing for games which either don't fit into a full review or I am not yet ready to talk about to that extent, essentially acting as a concise running commentary on whatever I'm currently playing and my thoughts thereof.
Cubetractor was developed by Ludochip and is available on PC and Mac.

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