For a lot of us, shooters are the equivalent of primal scream therapy. We zip around a screen, raining lasers upon our foes, collecting coins and power-ups until we emerge hours later feeling tired but oddly satisfied. As popular as these games are, it takes a lot for one to stand out from the pack and shine. One example is Lucidrine's Cube Colossus, a fast-paced and challenging shooter that offers multiple upgrades, ships, achievements, and more for newcomers and veterans alike.
While searching for new planets to colonize, one scout, Millie, reports to have found a potentially livable planet, shortly before losing contact. The signal leads her twin sister Rua, to an unknown enormous cube-shaped construction that traps both herself and her co-pilot Cedric within, quickly cutting them off from the other search party. Still, it shouldn't be much of a problem. After all, Millie wants to be found... doesn't she? There's no time to stop and think, as it turns out that the cube isn't empty. And its occupants aren't friendly.
Cube Colossus controls primarily with the mouse, moving with your cursor around the screen and firing when you hold down the left mouse button. But keep an eye on the blue energy bar at the bottom of the screen. Fire for too long, and your weapons could overload. Next to the energy bar is your red shield indicator, which decreases each time you're hit. If it runs out, well... it isn't the signal for the enemies to stop pounding on you and start singing Happy Birthday. Throughout the level, your overdrive meter is also steadily increasing, and when the yellow bar is full, you can tap the [space] bar to unleash your ship's special ability. Enormous waves of lasers not your thing? Then hop into another ship that can slow down time.
Differing from other shooters, you'll automatically lock on to one enemy and wherever you move, your ship will target it. The [WASD] keys are for fine-tuning, with [W] switching your target to the closest enemy, and [D] and [A] adjusting your aim clockwise and counter-clockwise. While the keyboard controls can take some getting used to, you'll be glad to have them when you start running across enemies faster than you are.
Not only can you upgrade your shields, attack power, and energy reserves between battles if you have the cash, but as you go along, Rua gains proficiency with whatever weapon you have equipped. The more you use a weapon, the more damage you'll wind up doing with it. If you decide to try something different later on in the game, you can always go back and replay earlier stages with it to level up and earn more gold.
The deeper you go into the Cube, the thicker the action gets. Enemies get faster, sneakier, and stronger, and the boss battles for each chapter are satisfyingly ferocious. Fortunately for you, you'll gain access to different ships as you go along, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You want action? We got your action.
What, you want strategy, too? Don't get blown up. There's your strategy.
Analysis: Cube Colossus has been through a long development process, and it shows. Not only does it look and sound like the best arcade goodness you could hope for, it plays extremely well. The 20 levels, not counting the special unlockable stages, manage to strike a nice difficulty curve. This isn't to say you'll be ready to breeze through the game's climactic final battle when you reach it. It just means that you'll find it refreshingly challenging instead of impossible. It also keeps track of the damage you do before you're hit, and rewards you accordingly each time.
Cube Colossus isn't here to hold your hand and lead you down the steps into the shallow end of the pool, making sure your floaties are on. It simply hurls you bodily into the deep end and goes on about its business while you flail around, flexing for a crowd of admiring onlookers while you sink or swim. The targeting system takes a little getting used to for those of us used to simply jamming on the buttons, but since death carries no penalty, it's only ever a minor setback. You'll keep all the gold you earned, be able to tweak your weapons accordingly, and then leap back into the fray.
As much as I love shooters, my limited attention span tends to see me losing interest halfway through after the novelty of upgrading wears off. While the story is a little bit old-school anime and has a few typos, it still works surprisingly well to drive you to keep playing. The downside is only the bare bones of the story are actually revealed during the gameplay, and the rest you'll have to read in the Archives once it's unlocked. As a result, it winds up feeling hasty and disjointed. I would have liked to have seen the story revealed naturally over the course of the game, instead of having to rely on a bunch of supplemental material afterward to fill in the gaps.
A shooter is a fun game when it's done well, and Cube Colossus is more than just done well. Despite a story that's a little awkward, the gameplay is never anything less than fierce, and you can spend a long time chasing every upgrade, achievement, and unlockable in the game. If you thought the final boss was tough, wait until you butt heads with one of the special bosses. While the amount of skill in the game primarily boils down to how quickly you can move the mouse without your wrist snapping off, the experience as a whole is riotously fun and definitely worth an hour or more of your time. I'd like to make a joke about the experience being colossal, but, well, puns are frowned on around here. I'm not sure I'm ready for another stint in the "Bad Reviewer Box". So just do yourself a favor and check the game out. I think you'll be glad you did.