Friday, January 18, 2008

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes Review

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes, developed and published by Iik Games.
The Good: Intuitive controls, informative user interface, simple but effective graphics, several game modes
The Not So Good: Mouse control could be improved, less colors should be used in introductory levels
What say you? A Q*bert-like game with interesting gameplay: 6/8

With all of the clones of Tetris, Pac-Man, and Asteroids around the Internet, it’s surprising that we don’t seen more Q*bert games. The color-changing game from the early 80’s was one of my favorites back when the Atari 2600 ruled the gaming world. Answering my calls for an update is Jack’s Bouncy Qubes, a poorly spelled title from Iik Games (probably the sound Q*bert makes when you step on him…IIK!!). Jack’s Bouncy Qubes has you bouncing on cubes (surprise!), changing their color to make adjacent cubes match.

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes features a very bright color scheme. I like the design of Jack (reminiscent of Grimace) and the cubes are rubbery and respond convincingly to bouncing. The game is easy to navigate as your perspective is fixed, allowing for the game to be in 3-D while still being good for novices. The backgrounds are repetitive, however, featuring only one color in a “smoky” presentation. Still, I like what Jack’s Bouncy Qubes brings in terms of graphics. The sound is typical for the genre, with appropriate effects accompanying the in-game action. The background music is annoying, though. Overall, Jack’s Bouncy Qubes features good graphics and sound for the genre and the vivid palate is certainly distinctive.

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes combines the color-stomping gameplay of Q*bert with classic match-three (or, in this case, match-four) puzzle games. The idea is pretty simple: move Jack around the board, changing colored squares in order to make matches. You can control the character with the keyboard or the mouse, although mouse control is more limited than I would like to see. While you can keep the mouse button (or keyboard) held down to quick movement, a single click can’t move Jack automatically across the board. Each level in the game uses the same color sequence: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and back to red. Jack’s Bouncy Qubes features a good interface that displays what color adjacent squares will turn if you choose to land on them (just in case you forgot the rainbow). However, I would like to see introductory levels use fewer colors to make matching easier early on. Once you make a four-square match, you have a couple of seconds before the cubes explode to make additional adjacent matches for bonus points. You have time to accumulate large amounts of bonus points if you plan correctly. Large matches can produce gems; collecting gems will grant even more bonus points for your coffers. You will need to move off your squares before they explode, as you can lose lives in the game. This actually penalizes players who make too many matches simultaneously, as you might not have an escape path when a match is made.

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes features a number of game modes. The standard time-limited game mode requires you to clear a specified number of matches before time runs out. Free play eliminates the time limit for a more relaxed pace. The survival mode quickens the pace and getting caught up in an explosion results in an instant loss. Puzzle mode requires you to make a match of a specified color and shape before time runs out; this is an interesting game mode that adds an additional layer of complexity to the game. You can get lucky with your intended shape (since the boards are randomized) or come up with a tough objective, resulting in some tense gameplay as time runs out. Jack’s Bouncy Qubes has an amalgamation of gameplay features that isn’t too common in the genre, so overall the game seems fresh and exciting. The fast-paced gameplay can feature some tense moments, and Jack’s Bouncy Qubes also requires a good amount of planning in real-time in order to maximize your success.

Jack’s Bouncy Qubes takes a couple of gameplay ideas and successfully combines them into a successful and innovative game. While on the surface Jack’s Bouncy Qubes looks like a simple Q*bert clone, the title is more sophisticated and subsequently requires more skill thanks to its match-four element. The controls are uncomplicated, although I would like to be able to point at a square across the board with my mouse and have Jack move there automatically. The interface assists the player in determining where to move next to manipulate adjacent squares. Reducing the color count in early levels would easy new players into the game more instead of having to worry about six colors for the entire game. Multiple game modes keeps the action varied beyond the standard time-limited games. The theme of Jack’s Bouncy Qubes is great, creating a fanciful environments in which to stomp on cubes. Jack’s Bouncy Qubes is an entertaining puzzle/action game and quite fun, while providing enough of a challenge to keep you interested.