Overall Score 69%
Jack's Bouncy Qubes
Our review game this week is an easy to pick up and play puzzler. The protagonist is a bean-like critter called Jack that the player guides over the 3D playfield to create like-coloured sets of Bouncy Qubes. Once a block of 4 or more Qubes are linked together, they start to pulsate for a brief period and then explode and are removed from play. During the time that they are pulsating, Jack has time to chain more like-coloured Qubes together to make combinations. The combos are where the big points are, and as you may have guessed, the bigger the better.
As Jack bounces over the Qubes, their colours are changed in the sequence of a colour wheel. There are 6 colours in all, and so there is some limited strategy in the optimal path that Jack needs to follow around the board in order to make the best combos. Honestly though, the game is extremely accessible, and most players will be able to jump right in without even glancing at the instructions. If Jack is unfortunate enough to be standing on a block of Qubes when it detonates, he is concussed, and a chance is lost. When all chances are lost, the game is over.
There are 4 game modes included. Free mode is as described above. Arcade mode is almost identical, but includes a countdown timer. If the timer reaches zero, it's game over. Survival mode sees players compete on a board with just one chance, and a maximum playtime of only 5 minutes. In Puzzle mode, the requirement is to make a block of Qubes in a stipulated colour and shape to progress to the next level, and is the mode that requires the most thoughtful play. The other modes will reward less careful play somewhat randomly, with lots of combos linked simply by speeding around detonated Qubes. In fact, sometimes this style of play is often the best tactic, and possibly the game's biggest flaw.
JBQ looks brilliant, with a vibrant colour palette and smoothly animated gameboard. Sound effects are excellent and the background music is a perfect fit for this style of game, even though there seems to be only the one track. Jack squeaks out in ecstasy after a particularly good combo (using varied soundbites) and cries out in pain when concussed, adding to the atmosphere. Overall, the cartoony look and feel of the game carry it to heights that the gameplay alone would not get it to.
There are options to customise everything from the resolution (and it can be played in both windowed and full-screen mode), to the music and sound effect levels, as well as the game supporting both mouse and keyboard input. Multiple player profiles are supported and on top of this the game keeps track of the top 10 high-scores for all 4 game modes.
Documentation is extensive (surprisingly so for a game this simple) and there are excellent in-game tips as well as a standard manual in HTML format. Only a couple of typographical and spelling errors detract slightly from a very polished production.
There is certainly nothing much more bland for a game idea than a simple match the colours puzzler. Iik Games have sadly done just that. JBQ sets itself apart from it's peers though, with great graphics and sound as part of a really professional package. The game is actually quite addictive in the short term, but there are definitely not going to be endless hours of gameplay here for most players.
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