Preview code used with many thanks to Colossus Game Studio.
From the team that made Cube Farmer comes the next instalment of Colossus Game Studio’s Cube series – Cube Airport.
A Cube on a Mission
Cube Airport puts you in control of a misplaced land cube where one of its sides has a part of an airport runway. Predictably, the airport has a missing piece that you can neatly slot in your cube. The goal isn’t just about moving the cube there in the limited number of moves given to you but also “rolling” the cube in a way that the runway side is facing upward in the correct orientation.
Me, Myself, and an Island
Cube Airport is designed for short bursts in the sense that the puzzles aren’t incredibly long and complicated. At the time of writing, the game offers 40 levels, and I almost finished half of them in roughly an hour. The levels take the form of small, solitary islands made up of cubes the same size as your cube.
The levels I played so far require seven moves or less, with a few later levels requiring more. Combine that with the fact that some of the cubes are obstacles, and you end up with puzzles that have a fair bit of challenge but are solvable with some trial and error.
No Pushing or Carrying Allowed
The core challenge of the game is making sure the top face of the cube is the runway side the moment you flip it into its final place. Because the cube “flips” at a 90-degree angle every time you move the cube, you must make sure the runway side faces the opposite direction as the adjacent hole. Figuring out how to put that cube in that position is key. The top bar tells you how many moves you have left until the game forces you to restart the level.
In its current state, the controls are a bit of a head-scratcher. For a casual game aimed at younger audiences, I do hope to see improvements here. Moving the cube requires you to click the arrow indicators next to it, which will roll the cube towards that direction. These arrow indicators also show valid moves making it impossible to push the cube off, say, a cliff or through an obstacle. However, because of the game’s 3-D approach, you can only see three arrow indicators, with the fourth being by the cube itself. You can sort of guess the arrow’s location, and it will move the cube towards that direction if you hit it, but it breaks the immersion for me.
I found myself using the right mouse button a lot to rotate the camera so that I could see that other arrow indicator. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game allowed me to tilt the camera in a way that I could better see the map and the arrow indicators. Thinking about it even more, I actually find the arrows completely unnecessary. Since you cannot interact with any of the objects in the game, I would find it more natural if you could just click the upper part of the screen to move the cube up or click the bottom part of the screen to move down and so on. This control revision would make the game friendlier for touchscreens too.
Cube Airport offers keyboard controls, but unfortunately, the game poorly implements them as well. You use the WASD keys for directions, and the tutorial popup tells you that right from the start. WASD controls are ideal for playing games alongside a mouse, and I think the game doesn’t need to rely on this combination. Making the cube controllable via the arrow keys is a more natural approach and should make it easier for younger players to pick up and play. Another annoyance I found with the keyboard controls is the need to press Enter after pressing the direction I want to go. Since you can’t do anything else other than rotating or zooming the camera, I believe this extra keypress is unnecessary.
Quality of Life Suggestions
Since the game doesn’t allow camera tilting, the camera angle ends up being an unnecessary hurdle to completing puzzles. While I understand a movable camera can be a fun way for kids to appreciate the beautiful visuals, I think there should be an option to lock the camera in place. Whenever I start a level, I would survey it via the camera controls and find the perfect angle for planning my route to the hole. All is fine and dandy until I make a mistake and restart the level. Restarting the level resets the camera angle as well, forcing me to go back to that perfect angle. It also makes it harder for me to figure out what I did wrong or retrace my previous steps because of the sudden change of camera perspective.
The game also lacks an undo option to address accidental moves. Because of the rough controls, I did make a few accidental moves forcing me to reset the level and once again fix the camera angle. Finally, it is impossible to access the game’s menu or restart a level without using the keyboard, as the visual icons do not respond to clicks.
The simple nature of Cube Airport is something I can get behind if it targets young or casual players who want to just relax, listen to chill music, and repair a beautifully rendered airport made of cubes. However, I believe the game needs a control scheme overhaul to remove all the frustration barriers. I played a similar cube-flipping game called Endorfun back in 1995, and comparing its controls with Cube Airport is night and day.
You can find the Cube Airport Steam page here.