Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
With a cry of “there’s gold in them thar voxels!” developers descended upon a post-Minecraft gaming world with pixelated dollar signs in their eyes. For a short time, it seemed like everyone and their dog was looking to churn out procedurally-generated, retro-looking, block-based games full of adventures and building stuff. A lot of sloppy, unpolished clones emerged, where quality took a backseat to cashing in on the blocky zeitgeist before it faded. However, now almost three years after Minecraft left beta, the public’s desire to create, build, and just PLAY doesn’t seen to have slowed down one bit. And then we get a game like Cubic Castles that, while still in its early stages, shows that there is still more territory to be mined in this genre. Pun fully intended.
Cubic Castles feels a bit like the offspring of Notch’s smash hit and Sony's LittleBigPlanet franchise. The game’s aesthetic core resembles the former, while the somewhat whimsical feel to the world and player characters, combined with the encouragement to build levels for others to just have fun in reminds me more of the latter. The game has an overworld map of sorts, filled with small icons representing each player’s personal plot of land as well as different biome “worlds” where resources can be harvested for crafting and building. If you don’t feel like running around the map however, you can shift to a “Sky Map” that shows a pulled-back overhead view, allowing quick travel to any of the worlds. Inside your own word a computer station controls permissions, letting brave owners do things like allowing visitors to edit the plot and so on.
Once you get past the hassle of figuring out the log-in screen (I still can’t figure out how to set a password for my screenname, though it doesn’t seem to require one - presumably it’s only needed when moving to a different device?) there’s only one real headache to be had. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a big one.
Cubic Castles, being a game that thrives on the careful placement of building materials, has what has to be THE worst camera for this type of game that I’ve ever seen. Primarily overhead in nature, its angle can be adjusted somewhat, but it lacks the ability to pull down close to the characters or to look at the world from a horizontal view. I rather hope some technical limitation is to blame for this design choice, because if it was deliberate it’s quite possibly one of the poorest decisions I’ve ever seen for this sort of game.
As of this writing, there’s not a ton of depth to Cubic Castles; the ability to build is all that’s on offer currently. Cosmic Cow has said that combat and monsters will be the next avenue of expansion as the game grows (it’s already coming to Steam via the Greenlight indie dev program) and that will no doubt do a lot for helping grow an audience, but if the number of occupied plots floating around is anything to go by, Cubic Castles already has a fair few builders engaged and some of them are quite talented indeed.
If you’re looking for more than just a crafting experience, you might be let down by Cubic Castles at the moment. Still, if they keep adding content and manage to get that camera right they could have a nice little hit on their hands.