674729_largerThe App Store being what it is, one of the bigger challenges a game faces is simply being noticed. With almost every genre represented and then some, unless you're working with a well-known IP, you need to have some kind of gimmick or hook to stand out. Well, Space Qube [Free], a shoot 'em up from new faces Qubit and Playground Publishing, owns its gimmick proudly. The hook here is that you can build your own 3D ship, piece by piece, and take it into battle. This isn't the first game to allow this kind of custom design, but it's uncommon enough to give the game a bit of a unique feel. Unfortunately, there's something else that feels unusual about this game.

In Space Qube, you'll play through level after level, shooting down waves of enemies in a behind-the-ship shooter that looks a little like StarFox but plays more like Galaga, since you can really only move left and right and shoot ahead of you. At the end of each level, you'll face one of four different types of bosses. Beat the boss, and you'll zoom to the next stage. As you progress, the stages of course get more and more difficult, and while the types of bosses repeat, they're always a little stronger (and differently colored) the next time you see them.

Screenshot_11

Of course, as mentioned in the introduction, the main draw here is the ability to create your own ship. Every object in this game is created with voxels, which are basically 3D pixels. The ship editor in this game is excellent, allowing you enough space, layers, and colors to create pretty much any kind of ship you want. You want to be an interstellar Batman dispensing cosmic justice from the Green Lantern ring you ripped off Hal's dead body? Go for it. Maybe you want the Vic Viper to ride again? Or perhaps you simply want to wreak havok with a giant, flying toilet. It's all up to you. The editor makes it easy to create anything you want, and as an added bonus, if you're one of the five richest kings of Canada and therefore own a 3D printer, you can print out your ship. If you're not the designing sort, the game does provide a few default ships for you to choose from, and by playing the game, you'll eventually unlock a whole bunch more.

Screenshot_08Having everything made from voxels gives the game a pretty unique look. It reminded me a lot of the game 3D Dot Game Heroes on the Playstation 3, kind of high-tech retro look. The backgrounds are basically multi-layer still images with a blur effect applied that slowly zoom in as you progress through the stage. The blurriness of the background actually helps the sharp voxels of the enemies and their shots stand out better, so while it isn't very pretty, from a gameplay point of view, it works. The music and sound effects also cash in on the retro buck, with strong melodic chiptunes and 8-bit sound effects.

As you play through the stages, you'll find a variety of power-ups you can pick up and use temporarily. In terms of offense, you'll find a heavy duty laser and missile power-ups. On the defensive side, you can pick up a shield to protect you from damage and hearts to replenish your ship's health meter. Aside from these, you'll also find two types of magnets, used to suck in the game's currency, a bullet-time power-up that slows down everything except your shots, and a booster that instantly sends you a large part of the way through the stage. The power-ups show up pretty regularly, and provide a very useful leg up, particularly against the bosses.

You'll come across quite a large assortment of enemies, most of which leave behind orange blocks called qubes. Qubes are the currency of this game, allowing you to power-up each of your ships individually with items like a qube magnet or doubler, a more powerful default laser, and stronger power-up effects. Qubes are also used, in an ever-increasing amount, to continue should your ship take too many hits. Perhaps most importantly, qubes are used to build your own ships in the editor. It's quite trivial to earn more than enough qubes to kit out your ship completely just by playing, but the game will also give you a daily login bonus as well. If that's still somehow not enough, you can buy more qubes via IAP.

Screenshot_16The qubes end up being the game's undoing in some ways, however. Some of the power-ups you can buy, such as the upgrades to the default laser, make you incredibly strong. Far worse, however, is the continue system. Even as the cost of continuing ticks up, once you have the doubler and the magnets, you'll almost certainly earn more qubes than it costs to continue. Continuing does not reset your score, either, so even though the game has Game Center support for leaderboards, it feels like what they're really measuring is your capacity to continue playing without getting bored.

Space Qube is just too easy, especially in the beginning, but each time you play, you're going to have to make your way through those early stages yet again, which will earn you a bunch of qubes, which will give you a huge buffer of continues, which can be used without any real penalty. It's really too bad, because the game plays well enough. Both touch and tilt controls work very well, the power-ups are fun, the enemies are varied, and the bosses are really cool. The game's balance is just tilted far too strongly in favor of the player, which results in a game that becomes a little mind-numbing in the long run.

It's pretty clear Space Qube was designed as a F2P game. The currency doubler, the daily bonuses, the magnets, and much more point to this game's past intentions. While I'm personally happy they went for a premium, everything up-front package in the end, the game has clear balance issues as a result of this change. I think the game could be tweaked into something more interesting to play in the long run, and I certainly hope the developers give it a shot. There's a good core here, but the devil is in the details, and right now, the details bring Space Qube down hard.

It's sad to toss another game with a great editor function on the pile, but this is yet another one of those where it's quite a lot more fun to mess around in the editor and take a quick spin than it is to play the actual game. I think kids in particular could have a really great time with this game, so long as they have the patience to create the designs that are in their imaginations. The lower difficulty probably won't matter one lick to them, either. For any reasonably skilled player, however, I feel the shoot 'em up action itself is too easy, and the scoring system is completely broken by allowing you to keep your score off a continue. If you're a fan of this genre, you could certainly do worse on the App Store, but you could do quite a lot better, too, so I'd really only recommend checking Space Qube out if you want to play around with the excellent ship editor.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • fallingcat

    Thanks for the review and we will take your advice to improve our game in the future.

    About the 3D printing, I would like to correct one thing. The players actually don't need to own their 3D printer. All they need is one finger :) and imagination and we will take care of anything else. We will print out the model and ship directly to the players.

    Thanks again for the review. We will keep working on updates to improve it to a better game.

    • PresidentZer0

      Shipping to Germany?

      • fallingcat

        Shipping globally. Currently we work with 3D printing service providers and they can ship globally.

      • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

        You can print out to your own 3D printer though, right?

      • fallingcat

        Currently no, we send it out for printing.

    • Sven Van de Perre

      I can create stuff, have it printed and delivered to my door?

      ... downloading now.

      Good thing to see more devs move back to Paid again as well. We took the other route with the iPad version of our 6th Planet (not F2P, but free, with big IAP chunks later on), and that didn't bring the results we wanted.

      • fallingcat

        Yes, you can create your own action figure now:) I checked uploaded models today and there are few models I really want to print out.

      • Sven Van de Perre

        Voxel. Belgium's first game that actually made a dent internationally (Outcast, google it) was done in Voxels. Cool and underused tech. Especially now, with all that pixel gfx revival stuff going on.

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      Hope this either made it into the review
      *OR* gets added in later.
      Pretty sweet perk.

  • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

    3D printers don't have to be super expensive. You can build your own with available kits online for far less.

    • fallingcat

      For single color, the personal 3D printer is OK. But the voxel model needs to be printed with colors otherwise it would be difficult to tell what it is. And as I know so far, 3D printers with multi-color output are still pretty expensive.

      • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

        That picture is neat. And I'm not trying to step on your marketing angle or whatever but DIY kits are easy and affordable for consumers to use. Yes that includes a dual head extruder which are still quite affordable and are becoming more affordable every day. One can easily get involved for $300 to $500 depending on their preferences.

        The angle I'm speaking from is a hobbyist and not your typical consumer. I'm sure there will be many people more than happy to order through you guys. But for the people who have 3D printers or access to them such as myself, it would be really neat if your app would allow that capability.

      • The Gamer Dude

        Yes my brother has a 3d colour printer, It would be really cool to print our own stuff. Please consider this in a future update.

      • fallingcat

        I see, my 3D printer knowledge may need some refresh :) . We would like to let players to print out their model if it is possible. Do you have some links I can refer to about the personal color 3D printer?

      • The Gamer Dude

        Just google cubeX, they are still expensive but he's single makes good money and he's a geek lol.

    • fallingcat

      These are some samples of printed voxel model.

  • Oats

    Great game! Thanks for the recent update that fixed keyboard/save issue :-)
    I would like to see a future update that lets you upgrade armor and speed.

  • renatpl

    Great game!

  • icoker

    how did this score lower than Heroes of loot and orborun? This has great 8 bit graphics and art style, and provides constant incentives such as getting new ships and ability to customize and upload your creations. This is unlike Heroes of Loot that provides ample loot but provides no items to spend its currency on.

    • xx99

      Two things to consider there:

      1) One of the reviews you mentioned was by a different reviewer.

      2) Everybody has different likes and dislikes. Maybe you are a sucker for fun, vivid graphics and carrot-chasing. Shaun might prefer strategic gameplay, enjoy more challenging games, or simply have a thematic preference of medieval fantasy over sci-fi.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Heroes of Loot is a twitchy grind-fest.
        This game looks like it has a lot of room for creativity, and the gameplay sounds fun.
        Sad that TA reviews them with *NO OBJECTIVE CRITERIA*, which is why TA's reviews get a *FAIL* grade.
        And (Jared might chime in here) -- no matter how many TA fans comment on this, TA always chooses to keep their current methodology.
        I've said many times -- how about some catagories like "ingenuity, replayability, graphics, sound, depth", etc, all to a resounding 'we'll keep doing it like we've been doing it'.
        Well, the span of coverage is great. The reviews generally go deep enough to get an idea of the game. The writing of the reviews varies, and is generally passable. But the final score ...
        FAIL
        (I'm posting this b/c TA needs to re-think this part of it's business -- I'm a big TA fan!)

      • MrAlbum

        They have thought about it to death, to my knowledge. In fact, they have said over and over again that if they could do away with any kind of a score in their reviews and be taken seriously by the industry, which depends heavily upon Metacritic for immediate feedback which aggregates numeric scores, then they would. Sadly, they cannot.

        As to otherwise changing the structure of their reviews, reviews are by nature subjective. This means that reviews are essentially opinion pieces, not factual guides. This means that changing the structure of TA's reviews depends on the opinions of TA's staff members, because their reviews are their opinions about the games they review.

        In short, it's up to them, and if they decide not to change the structure, then so be it. Do the reviews suffer in terms of quality with the current format? Of course, I am talking about everything EXCEPT the review score, which is a different matter.

        Anyway, that's what I know about that subject. I do think the points that were brought up were good, so I explained a couple counter-points for the purpose of debate and discussion. For those who read this, thank you for your time!

        Mr. Album

  • Adsinjapan

    I actually got to speak with the developers of the game at this years Tokyo Game Show press days, and they informed me that they still had a ton of ideas they plan on implementing, including individual weapon points you can add to your ship and improved difficulties.
    Right now it's just their aim to stand out and offer a game that is memorable, while building on the quality of the game.

    • xx99

      It seems like a really tough position to be in as a developer. If you don't stand out at launch, you want have a big enough player base to make your audience grow much bigger after you improve your game. It's a big part of the reason why we see so many developers promise updates that never actually hit. Would you drain your resources to update a game for the tens or hundreds of players playing your game when you have a better chance of attracting more attention with a new game? How many iOS games can you think of that exploded after an update, because of that update?

      • xx99

        "want" -> "won't"

      • icoker

        i like your logic.

  • jamieS

    I hope the dev is still reading comments. This is for you, I think the game is a great start. I just got this so my daughter and I could play with the editor. Imagine my dismay when we are looking at other users creations, only to find one of the first 10 to be a large pink man part with dripping fluids. :

    You really need to vet the content here or make a block/report mechanism. Apple will change your rating otherwise, and I'm pretty sure a large part of your audience here will be kid creators.

    • fallingcat

      We will remove the offensive content as soon as we can. Please press the "Report Offensive Content" whenever you found any offensive content and we will remove it as soon as we can. Thanks for your feedback, I actually made this game for my son so I understand your feeling. We will check the offensive content more often from now.

      • jamieS

        Brilliant. Looks like it's all gone now. I didn't realize you could click and hold to report something. If possible, may be nice to have that function one layer higher so that you don't have to full screen the offensive ones. Enjoying the editor as much as the game play.

  • Devok

    Did I just see super mario on that trailer? ._.

  • Th3R3n3gad3

    Why this game get 3.5 stars? It should get 5.

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      Why?

      • Th3R3n3gad3

        I saw no cons at all in the review.

    • fallingcat

      Thanks for your support. The score is actually lower than we expected but we will take some of his suggestion and the feedback from the players to keep improving the game. As a developer, 5 stars from the players is much worth than from the press :) Thanks for the 5 stars.

  • http://www.nitrome.com/ Nitrome

    Hey being a pixel art based studio I downloaded this and gave it a whirl. The main draw for me would be to make some voxel versions of our characters and get them printed which sounds very cool. The problem I have is that the grid is so limited being only 16x16. Any chance you might up this to say 32x32 or larger in the future? At the moment it is a bit limited for what I would love to make?

    • fallingcat

      Hi, on iPad, you can choose to create 32x32 or 16x16. We can extend it if we find a way to show bigger canvas. On PC version, because of the resolution, we can actually make much bigger models.

      • http://www.nitrome.com/ Nitrome

        Oh I didn't realise iPad would be different. I will try it out for sure as 32x32 sounds a lot better.

  • Taclys

    Completely 100% agree with the review. The editor is amazing, I've had a blast with it. Being a retro, scifi, fan and a graphic designer, it's so much fun. The ships I'm creating look awesome. The game itself is lacking though, hopefully the devs ramp up the difficulty soon.

    Thanks devs for being active in the comments, and not choosing a freemium model!

    • Taclys

      Taking an idea from Beat Hazard, you could include multiple game modes, and leave the current difficulty as a "chill" game mode. Boss rush would be fun, I enjoy the bosses a lot.

  • fallingcat

    Version 1.1.2 is just released which fix the crash issue on iPhone 4 with iOS 7 installed. There are many players give us one star because of this issue so if you really like this game, please consider to give us 5 stars so Space Qube can go back to 4 starts rating

Space Qube® Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 3.5