I’m a huge fan of bite-size games. I think I always have been; it may even be part of the reason I game almost exclusively on portable devices. There’s something tremendously seductive (at least to me) about being able to jump in and out of an experience, even for a few minutes, and lose yourself there. “Survive! Mr. Cube” is such an experience: it’s a bite-sized roguelite, a basic experience at its core, but one whose basic nature does not hinder its fun factor.
The story, if you can call it that, is both simple and convoluted. You lose a loved one, you end up transported in a time portal… you know, a typical Monday. It really isn’t about the story with this game, and that’s fine. A lot of my favorite games won’t win any literary awards. So it’s about the gameplay, then?
It is, indeed! And here’s what you need to know:
You go into the portal with a different type of hero every time. Which hero you get is randomly decided. You go into the portal, and try to survive for as long as you can in a dark forest area that reveals itself the more you walk around it. You will encounter all kinds of enemies, from smaller animals to bigger and badder critters, soldiers, wizards… well, it gets pretty tricky pretty soon. Which is why, if you’ve got a rubbish hero to play as, you are actually better off cutting your loses early and respawning.
Should you do this, though, the game becomes much more streamlined, only held back by the fact that loading takes an awfully long time, considering the types of assets that are being loaded. I really wish I didn’t have to spend nearly half a minute staring into a character description screen every time I die. It wouldn’t be so bad if I died every 10 minutes, but because it’s a roguelite, you’ll most likely die after a couple of minutes, less if you pull a Marcos and kill the weak hero to get something better.
It’s not all bad, though, because as you gather up money (which is the one thing you don’t lose when you die) you’re able to buy stuff from a shady fellow right before entering the portal. It’s a loot-buy-loot-play loop that’s effective, but again, somewhat held back by long loading times and limited appeal.
Why do I say the game has limited appeal? Well, the truth is, after playing for about an hour, you’ve seen all the game has to offer. True, the same can be said about “Tetris”, and much like “Tetris”, “Survive! Mr. Cube” and its arcade elements will keep you coming back for more. Graphics are cute, with a voxel style that emulates Minecraft and similar titles. Music and sound effects are barely there, and not worth mentioning beyond that. The price, though, is something I can’t really justify. This feels much more like a $5 game than a $15 game.
It won’t be for everyone, this game, and I feel like it could have benefited from a bit more tech polish, especially reducing load times. But at its core, there’s something fun about “Survive! Mr. Cube” that is difficult to explain, and much better experienced rather than read.
If you’re into roguelites, give it a go when you see it around. Maybe on a sale? I think you’ll find yourself enjoying the game more than you thought you might.