Posted by Philip J Reed
These tubes are fit to be tied
Tower defense games have enough in common that one pretty much knows how much he will or won't enjoy the game before he even plays it. The core concept is addictive and appealing to a certain subset of gamers, and a complete turnoff to others. This is not a bad thing; in fact, it saves both parties a lot of time. Very, very few tower defense games manage to successfully reach out to those who may be turned off by the concept, and, again, that's okay. They are made with a specific audience in mind, and that is the only audience that they seek to please.
Of course, one consequence of this is the fact that – because they don't tend to reach very far from their core concepts – tower defense games start to feel very much the same over time. Few of them take any major risks or deviate significantly from their simple formula, therefore the games are remembered (if they're remembered at all) because of whatever small details or flourishes they sprinkle over the tried and true gameplay experience.
Inkub is in a unique position, as it actually does attempt to stretch the tower defense genre beyond its commonly respected boundaries, and yet still manages to feel as dull as though it introduces nothing at all.
The visual presentation of this game is quite nice, with a sort of cybernetic approach to the menus and scenery (pleasantly augmented with a dash of steampunk by way of the pneumatic tubes through which the enemies creep), and this ties nicely into the game's storyline, regarding creatures in an incubator that must be protected from marauding aliens. So far, so good.
The nature of these enemies can be understood simply from the game's genre: they trundle mindlessly inward toward their goal, and it's up to you to fortify your position and place weaponry that will either stop them, slow them, or outright destroy them.
None of this is really new. While the attempt at weaving a science fiction story (the artificial creation of intelligent creatures is a trope that has served fiction very well in the past) is welcome, it's still essentially irrelevant, as the game boils down to placing laser guns in tubes and watching them spit passively at brainless space cockroaches. It's somewhat akin to reimagining Pac-Man as an abstract recreation of the French Revolution where you control the inevitably doomed Louis XVI. No matter what story you try to attach to it, the gameplay does not change, and it's best to just disregard it.
Inkub does, however, attempt some forward motion for the genre. The only problem is that these added complications run the gamut from irritating to downright broken.
As far as the broken aspect of things go, the IR cursor is supposed to be context-sensitive. Usually it is, but more often than we are comfortable to admit it refused to let us perform certain actions. Specifically, if you position the cursor over a turret you've placed, it will give you the option to either upgrade it (by pressing A) or remove it (by pressing B). Or, at least, it should. Several times per stage, however, the cursor would not change and would therefore not present us with those options. Oddly, pressing either A or B would still perform the desired action, usually. This means that at times the game would not show us the options available to us, and at other times wouldn't let us use them. If this were a rare glitch it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but as it stood it interrupted the flow of gameplay several times per level, and that's a pretty disappointing rate.
Similarly, the cursor would sometimes not give us the option to upgrade our energy generators (a necessary act if one is to have any hope at all of completing a level), even though pressing A would still do it. Something prevented the prompt from showing up nearly 20% of the time, even though the option was still valid and available.
Inkub's ace in the hole, so the speak, should have been its motion control. The enemies meander forward through a series of tubes in the hopes that they will reach your incubator, and slap your clone babies around a bit. Easy enough, but before long the game introduces additional tubes in the background that must be managed as well. Unfortunately, Cosmonaut Games required a truly violent flick of the Wii Remote to rotate the level and access them. Why this wasn't mapped to one of many unused buttons is a question never answered, though you'll certainly be asking it many times as you flick, flick, flick, and flick again in the vain hope that the game board will rotate and allow you to deal with the meanies creeping around back there.
The required flick does seem to be needlessly abrupt in order to register, which is completely at odds with the slow (if not downright glacial) pace of the game otherwise. You will spend much of a level waiting for energy generators to give you enough money (Money? Why not energy...?) for you to place and upgrade weapons, then more of a level waiting for the space bugs to mosey into firing range, then even more of a level trying not to fall asleep, only to then see some creepy-crawlies creepy-crawling down the tubes in the background. After so much time spent using the Wii Remote in such an unhurried way, the necessity of really snapping that thing around is pretty tough to get used to.
It's also totally unnecessary, as the game could easily have been designed in such a way that all tubes were accessible from the front. (It could have easily been that way in most levels, anyway.) Or the motion controls could have been done away with entirely. The developer calls it an "innovative play system." Yes, it's about as innovative as swinging a plastic bottle around to get the last squirt of ketchup out of it.
Inkub begins as every other tower defense game begins, but quickly starts piling on quirks and unnecessary additions – many of which don't even work as intended – and it doesn't stop doing so until the gamer shrugs and gives up, overwhelmed.
Inkub is a decent game that unfortunately outstretches itself. While tower defense titles live or die by the strengths of whatever flourishes or mechanics they add to the genre, Inkub piles them on indiscriminately and then sinks from the weight. It's not very promising when the best thing one can say about a game is that it would have been better if it stopped trying to be so original. Inkub is by no means bad, but its glitches get frustrating pretty quickly, and its complications crowd out the fun that should be at its core.