Neowin Reviews: Cube for iPhone/iPod touch

Ever been playing one of the many games available for the iPhone or iPod touch and thought to yourself "Hey, this is fun, but I'd much rather be shooting something right now"? Well think again, because if Cube is anything to go by, it would be frustrating and hard to control.

Currently 99th on the iTunes App Store's list of Top Free Apps, Cube is marked down as a "Game", but the whole idea behind a game is that you're supposed to be able to get some sort of enjoyment out of it. I'd say "Tech Demo" was a more appropriate title, but even that's stretching it, as the technology isn't that impressive either.

Your controls are simple enough: tilt the device to look and aim, touch the bottom right corner to go forwards, bottom left to shoot, top right to jump, and top left to see a menu. Shift your finger up and down to change weapon. This all sounds good, but you'd better be able to remember that fast, as after the initial loading screen no on-screen controls are shown to you. Taking it's place are health, shield and ammunition meters, alongside some text that's meant to tell you something, which I can only assume is some sort of practical joke on the developer's part as the text is around one pixel shy of being unreadable. That, and it tells you nothing useful gameplay-wise.

Enjoy it while it lasts, you won't get to see these controls again.

After the app has loaded you are thrust straight into a basic map which you can explore at your own leisure. The first thing you'll notice is that you seem to be playing as a drunk Texan man. Don't be fooled; this is actually the overly sensitive accelerometer working it's magic to make sure that the game is nearly unplayable. Such things as walking in a straight line or not staring at the walls are apparently unheard of in Cube's virtual world - oh, unless you're an NPC (non-playable character). When you're ready you can indulge yourself in more tiny writing with a trip to the menu to start playing. Top left corner, remember? Oh, and your bottom left will now act as a confirmation that you want to select that menu item. Regardless, the game will still leave you in the dark as to where these controls lie, and for some reason your character still waves his gun in the air wildly even when navigating menus.

A rare screenshot where I'm actually looking straight ahead.

The game runs at roughly 15FPS, but even then the game feels the need to jump miniature loading screens on you mid-level. The framerate issue wouldn't be that much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that it actually delays your shots. In a shooting game, the timing of your shots is quite crucial, especially considering you may not be aimed at your target for all that long. Amazingly, I did manage to defeat the first wave of troll-things. I wanted a screenshot of this momentous occasion, but the game crashed.

Maybe I am being a little harsh on Cube. For an iPhone/iPod touch game, the graphics are quite good. Occasionally, little white dots will feel the need to decorate your screen, anti-aliasing appears to be unheard of, and in dark corridors the enemy looks like it becomes one with the brown walls, but this is a handheld game, and despite what Apple may say, the iPhone was not designed to play games from the start. It's a very naive gadget buyer who bought an iPod touch hoping they'd see a "Halo killer" sometime in the future. This review could have been a bit longer had I been able to try out multiplayer, but unfortunately it crashed every time without fail.

For a handheld device, graphics aren't bad.

Is Cube bad? As a game, yes. As a demonstration of what can be done with the iPhone, a bit. As a very rough first attempt at an FPS on the iPhone, no. In fact, as that last one, it's quite good. Cube could have been much worse, but sadly it could've been much better. Developers may want to try it out and see what works about it and what doesn't, the real geeks among us may want to try and overcome the accelerometer issues to show off to others, but most people simply won't enjoy this. If any Cube developers read this, don't feel discouraged by this review, by all means keep going, but don't delude yourself into thinking that you're already there.

Updates are reportedly in the pipeline, which will help. However, if you're looking for a well-polished free game for your new device, I highly recommend Trace, JellyCar, or Tap Tap Revenge, all of which could have been released with price tags without any surprise or complaints.

iTunes Link: Cube

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