New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Cube Escape—Mind-Bending 3-D Mazing (code.google.com/p/cube-escape)

Fans of unique puzzle games should check out Cube Escape—a really interesting variation on the traditional maze games you've come to expect. According to the Web site: “You are inside a cube made up of numerous shells, with a maze etched on the surface of each shell. Escape the cube by traveling through the mazes, including over cube edges, until you find an upward exit home. When you reach the red exit, you win.”

Cube Escape is a brain-melting maze game that takes place on a cube, where you escape from multiple layers in the process.

Later levels can become seriously complex, making 3-D navigation incredibly difficult.

Installation

Running this game actually is very easy, as you don't have to compile it (assuming you're on an Intel x86 architecture). If you're not on an Intel-based distro, fear not; compilation is also very easy. Although binaries are available at places such as playdeb.net (and you can work out how to install those yourself), the source tarball is so easy that I'll just run with that.

As far as library requirements go, the documentation says you need the following

Grab the latest tarball from the Web site and extract it. Open a terminal in the new folder, and if you're on an x86 machine (including AMD64 and the like), run the program with the following command:

$ ./cube-escape

If you're running on another architecture, simply delete the current cube-escape file and enter this command:

$ make

Now you can run the game with the same command as above.

Usage

Inside the game, the controls and game play are pretty simple. Start a new game, and using the default settings for now, click OK and the game starts.

You'll be presented with a small white box, with the player represented as a green ball inside a black pathway. Basic controls consist of the arrow keys for movement, and the Enter key engages the colored portals to ascend and descend between levels, as well as the red portals that finish the game.

At this point, I recommend right-clicking in the black space outside the maze. A set of controls appears (which can be disabled again by another right-click) that control your view of the cubic maze. Currently, you are looking at one side of the cube, but click any of the arrows on the top, bottom, left and right of the window, and you can flip the cube around, exploring all six sides of the cube before moving on. This is handy for checking which direction your needed portals are on, so I highly recommend you do so!

If you look in the corners of your game window, at the bottom right of the screen are some zoom controls. At the top left and top right are rotational controls, so you actually can rotate the view of the cube, instead of just changing between cube faces.

As far as the actual gameplay goes, you start on some very basic levels with little detail, zoomed in quite closely to your character. Find your way to the green portal, and you'll ascend to the next layer. At the top layer is the red portal to finish, and the blue portals let you descend layers (I'm not sure why you would though, unless other gameplay mechanics are in the pipeline).

You'll notice gray sections on the cube. These are the unexplored areas, and they light up and reveal bits of maze the more you explore, staying that way if you're heading back (the game would be very hard without this gameplay mechanic as you'd keep covering old ground).

Once you've come to grips with the game, you may want to increase the difficulty. When you start a new game, the Options screen has a number of variables you can change, such as how many levels you want, which level to start on, how far the exit distance is from the starting portal and so on.

Although the gameplay of Cube Escape will speak for itself with any genuine geek (myself included), OSS projects have a habit of evolving into something bigger, and what I'm really looking forward to are the mutations that inevitably will take place.

The game may take place on a 3-D cube, but most of the time, this 3-D world isn't readily apparent. If you turn off the Advanced Graphics option with its cube flipping, you would realize the game takes place on a cube only after hours of playing time. I know it's shallow, but if some whiz-kid OpenGL programmer used some perspective tricks to show something like a cube floating in space, with some graphical hints toward the game taking place over multiple layers, the appeal of the game would become readily apparent to any casual observer.

I think there's also some potential for modifications, such as a “time attack” mode, split-screen multiplayer races, or some kind of gameplay mechanic that would make use of the descent function, utilizing each level completely and multiple times (instead of just ascending).

I'm not criticizing the game though—far from it! I think this game has a solid design principle at heart that easily could be extended upon. Cube Escape may become one of those cult-following games that spawns a thousand variants. Get modding, people.

______________________

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

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