Game clones are difficult to review. Do you tear them down for being unoriginal, or give them the same time and attention as any other game? Should they even be allowed to be sold in the first place?
Sometimes clones can produce different experiences to their, shall we say, “inspiration” and then they become something worthy of standing on their own. Then there are games like Cube Life: Island Survival that border on copyright infringement but, quite frankly, Cypronia’s Minecraft ripoff is so bad that it becomes a parody rather than competition.
At the title screen, you’re given the choice of Creative mode (in which you have no limits and can build what you want, or so you might think. More on this later) or Story mode, which is where we’ll start.
After a l-o-o-o-n-g loading screen and an introduction movie (obviously made using the in-game Creative mode, as the character’s arm is visible even when the camera is meant to be executing a sweeping shot of a luxury ship. Just the first piece of evidence in a long list of why this game is terribly made) the game drops you on an island in the middle of nowhere, having to listen to your character’s dodgy voiceover as he tells you that he’s thirsty. Apparently there are some coconuts “over there” but that’s all the information you’re getting.
There really is no tutorial for this game. Minecraft at least gives you a tutorial map, but Cube Life ignores its target audience and leaves you to inevitably die as you dehydrate, starve or are butchered by island wildlife. If you have played Minecraft you’ll have some idea of how the game works, knocking down blocks and crafting tools, etc. to aid your survival, otherwise you’re well and truly screwed.
After your inevitable first death, you’ll probably not have thought to save, and you’ll be dropped at the very start again – complete with that awful intro and the painfully long loading screen. The first thing you’ll notice is that the island is exactly the same as before. That’s right, there’s no randomly generated environments here, you get the same island every single time. How does this take so long to load? It’s not even a big environment – even if you travel to the edge of the map and find the second area, it’ll have to l-o-o-o-a-a-d again.
When you do finally get to play the game, you will instantly see the same block-based visuals of Minecraft. Mojang’s game is hardly a looker as you may know, but its design is distinctive and its art direction is fantastic in spite of (or maybe because of) its basic visuals – none of this is present in Cube Life: Island Survival. The textures aren’t cute and easily distinguishable, nor are they sharp. They’re blurry and washed out, or they’re simply one single colour, flat and lifeless. This is not helped by the overly bright sunlight and the bloom that makes Oblivion’s shining white walls look dull by comparison.
During the day, you’ll want to craft tools in order to mine various materials and build shelter (or just use the cave provided) for when night falls. This is easier said than done, as your tools last only six or seven blocks before breaking and your hunger and thirst drops at an equally alarming rate. If either drops to zero, your health will drop until you inevitably die…again. As mentioned earlier, you don’t even respawn upon death either, with the ability to find your corpse and reacquire your things, you just get a game over screen and that’s that. These are huge flaws that make it unbelievable the game even made it past testing.
If you do have the will to play until nightfall, you’ll soon find the island’s hostile inhabitants coming out to play. These are simply people, tribal by the looks of things, and probably cannibals judging by their ravenous hunger for murder. Unlike Minecraft’s creatures, they don’t come from underground or anything, they simply materialise on the surface as ready-made mobs and make a beeline for you. They don’t have to see you to know exactly where you are.
The combat is weak too. Enemies do damage by mere proximity, without having any real attack animations, and the only indication that you’re taking damage is an almost inaudible groaning coming from the player character. This all means that death can occur without you really having any say in the matter.
You can’t even count on friends to help you out, as there is no multiplayer whatsoever in Cube Life: Island Survival. There are score leaderboards that have no bearing on anything, and are completely out-of-place in a game like this, but that’s your lot. Yet another glaring omission in a game completely devoid of fun, or even any respect for its players. You may be thinking that it’s only Story mode that’s at fault and that Creative mode would save the day. You would be wrong, I’m afraid.
Creative mode, while removing the threat of enemies, health, thirst and hunger, is even less fun. Minecraft’s Creative mode lets you do whatever you want, giving you access to the full library of dirt, stone, items, etc. and just leaves you to it. Cube Life: Island Survival gives you a limited amount of materials, still requiring you to craft everything else. It at least gives you a list of how to craft everything in the game via the pause menu, but this doesn’t excuse the fact that Cypronia obviously doesn’t understand the game it has blatantly attempted to copy. There is no depth here, no growing crops or breeding animals, just violence and an overly harsh survival system that relies on cheap mechanics.
You can play the entire game on the WiiU Gamepad, which is one plus point at least. That said, the touchscreen implementation is terrible and the crafting controls are so unintuitive that it really makes no difference how you play the game.
Between the weak combat, poor visuals, awkward controls and the generally poor gameplay, Cube Life: Island Survival is every bit the awful clone that you might expect to see on iOS or the Xbox 360’s Indie Game library. It feels like a badly made mod of “The Forest” for Minecraft. It ignores the family-friendly target market that Minecraft so expertly covers, and feels like it is just trying to cash in on the lack of a WiiU port of Mojang’s classic builder. But even at just £5.39, Cube Life: Island Survival is not worth it. If you’re absolutely desperate for an open-world, building/crafting game for your Nintendo console, just wait for Terraria.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Wii U code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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