The Last Cube is a game that is easy to overlook. The screenshots don’t really do it justice, but then again it’s hard to think of one that could. What we have on our hands here is essentially a puzzle platformer game, and it’s hard to make that look sexy.
You play as the titular last cube, who is on a mission to save its home world by solving increasingly complex sets of puzzles. In this game, cubes are a sentient race and you’ll just have to accept that. The world in which you find yourself is colourful and vibrant but also desolate and foreboding. You learn more about your mysterious six-sided home by collecting hidden (what I shall call) baby cubes, which when found will usually unlock lore entries.
To begin with, all you need to master is moving your cube character around on its six faces. This is pretty self-explanatory as each stage is segmented into squares. However, I’d advise using the D-Pad as the thumbstick’s sensitivity works against you at times. The levels are designed so you won’t get stuck, but a wrong move can set you back in your efforts to reach the exit teleporter.
The puzzle element comes to life with the “sticker system”, which is a brilliant little gameplay mechanic. There are six different stickers which each come with their own special ability. To “equip” these, you simply move over them which will attach the sticker to the side of your cube which is face down at the time.
However, you are only able to use each sticker’s ability when it’s visible on the top face of the cube. To begin with, things are pretty straight forward. The first sticker you unlock is a blue cross, and this allows you to spin your cube on the spot, instead of having to roll around. Through this, some simple puzzles are opened up which help you get to grips with the game mechanics.
As you unlock more stickers, and puzzles are composed of several different elements, The Last Cube really begins to test the old grey matter. The yellow plus allows you to boost forward by four squares, the red circle grants you the ability to cross gaps with floating steps and the green squares allow you to create a clone cube which is unable to make use of any sticker powers itself but is free to move around as normal. As you can imagine, before long there’s quite a lot to ponder as you try to reach the exit.
My favourite sticker, however, is by far the one which allows your cube to move around on its corners, as if it’s walking around on its tippy toes. I have no idea why, but it’s absolutely adorable.
As you may imagine, that’s not all you have to contend with either. You will need to redirect lasers to activate switches, make use of “helper” cubes who roll around endlessly on closed tracks and team up with clone cubes which allow you to control several within the same puzzle.
There are also certain floor tiles which will wash your cube clean of its stickers, such as patches of water and yellow rails which will erase every sticker from your cube when touched, no matter with which side. Using your newly discovered powers to work around these is crucial to success.
A lot of the time, switches are located on the floor and you simply need to match the correct sticker to them. However, getting the right side to face down can be a head scratcher in itself. Mercifully, The Last Cube will (if possible) tell you the quickest way to solve this so you can focus on the larger task at hand. Simply press the X button for assistance here. It’s a welcome aid, and doesn’t detract from the overall challenge.
There are six different environments where you solve puzzles in The Last Cube, and they gradually become more challenging as the gameplay gets more complex. The levels are brilliantly designed, so much so that you will have several audible “ahhh” moments as the solution clicks into place. They can all be solved by understanding the logic of each sticker’s ability, so none seem impossible, cheap or unfair. As a result, The Last Cube offers a consistently rewarding gameplay experience.
The single player campaign is fairly lengthy too, with over 100 puzzles to be solved. The six different environments of the cube world are distinctly separated by design, each containing a set of themed levels. Once completed, a challenge will be revealed to encourage replayability. These vary, but will usually impose restrictions on how you play through a level which adds an extra layer of complexity to the puzzle solving. You can access each level by navigating the “Hub” area, which also contains a few secrets of its own.
Remember those baby cubes I mentioned earlier? Well, if you find enough of them, bonus levels will appear which offer the most taxing challenges in The Last Cube. Complete these and you can truly consider yourself master of the cubes (probably).
Despite being pretty minimalistic, The Last Cube has an intriguing visual style which is attractive in itself. It’s not the prettiest game ever, but its use of colour and themes for each environment prevent things from looking bland and repetitive. It’s a trap that games such as this fall into all too often.
The big problem however, is lag. Despite not stating it, you can tell when the game is loading as it will freeze for a good couple of seconds. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only an occasional issue, but it happens several times in each level. Most often when you hit a switch, or progress to the next area, things grind to a brief halt. It’s a real shame and not what you would expect in a modern game which isn’t really demanding too much from your Xbox.
I must admit, I really didn’t expect to enjoy The Last Cube as much as I did. I’m a big fan of puzzle games, but by now I thought I had pretty much seen it all. However, this is a genuinely clever game which is extremely well designed and perfectly paced, as the layers of complexity build. So much so that I felt compelled to see it through, and yes, I will be heading back to collect those baby cubes that I missed the first time around.
Never judge a book by the cover, because there’s more than meets the eye in The Last Cube. It may be unassuming, but it’s smart, deep and totally engrossing.
Join the world of The Last Cube by visiting the Xbox Store