Quick understanding of cubes and excellence.
I stood in a long, white room. In the room were all kinds of cubes, and on the walls and floor were square panels, one that would cause a ball to drop from the ceiling and roll down the slanted pathway toward the end of the room; the other panels caused sections of the room to rotate, allowing me to shift the flow of the ball as it rolled. Other, different colored cubes lined the floor, too, but these had an interesting effect, and appeared holographic. If the ball passed through them, it would change color. This was a puzzle, and one I had been attempting to solve for several minutes. What is impressive about Toxic Games’ Q.U.B.E. – Director’s Cut is that these puzzles nearly always result in what I call an “Aha!” moment. And those moments are some of the most rewarding elements of the game. The sense of accomplishment I felt after solving the challenge above is something that few games replicate today.
One of the biggest reasons for this is that the game offers very little in the way of hand-holding. The developers are content with introducing new concepts and maneuvers through the early gameplay itself, rather than a lengthy tutorial section with lots of text. I always admire this approach to teaching players, and Q.U.B.E. pulls it off very well. You’ll start by experimenting with a single type of blocks, red ones that you can pull to extend, creating a platform for you to reach new heights, and then quickly move on to other types; blue cubes that launch you to higher places, yellow blocks that make stair-like formations, and green cubes that are stationary and are used to solve various puzzles. Aside from manipulating these cubes, your only other control input is to jump by pressing A. Once you’ve got these basic concepts down, it is up to you to figure out how to make your way through the environment, one room at a time.
If the gameplay sounds simple, that’s because it is. But the simplicity of Q.U.B.E. is one of its strengths, and this minimalist approach even extends to the art style. Every room is made up of these cubes, and the game seems to pride itself in its use of primary colors in backdrops of white or black. Don’t let this simplicity fool you, though. Q.U.B.E. is a game that is cleverly constructed, and its puzzles, which gradually increase in difficulty, will challenge your wits and reflexes throughout the 2-3 hour experience. The puzzles in each room are intricate and highly creative, with some of my favorites being the ones in which the room’s lights are off, and only one of the four colors of cubes can be seen glowing at a time. Puzzles like these are the highlight of the game, and many of them brought a smile to my face upon completion.
It wasn’t just the puzzles that kept me entertained, however. Like other games in its genre, Q.U.B.E. provides an interesting narrative that is woven throughout the many rooms you’ll find yourself in. When the game begins, you’ll find yourself waking up inside of a room entirely comprised of white cubes. A voice comes in from a female astronaut who claims to be on a space station nearby. She informs you that you are inside of some kind of structure that is a threat to the planet earth, and that only by traversing its interior can you stop it. Not much else is explained to you, and so you take her words as truth on good faith. At least, you do at first. Because it is not too long afterward that another voice begins to speak to you, claiming that this is all a ruse, and that you are merely a rat trapped in a maze. The mystery of what is true, and what isn’t, become unraveled as you make your journey. Although the story doesn’t always deliver in a way that is ultimately satisfying, it does make the game more interesting, and pushes you forward when you inevitably become stuck at one of the more challenging puzzles.
If there is something to complain about when it comes to the gameplay, it is that the platforming bits can be a bit rough at times. It isn’t always as tight as one would like when making some of the more precise jumps, which can be frustrating. Adding to this is the fact that looking down seems to reveal that your character does not have visible legs, which can also make it hard to determine where you are standing and where you are going to land as you jump through the air. In several rooms, falling means you have to restart the puzzle from square one, so it’s unfortunate that the jumping isn’t as polished as it could be.
The music and sound follow the simple nature of the rest of the game, but this was an area that I wish hadn’t taken that approach. Often, the soundtrack is generic and bland. It is never bad, but soundtracks for games in which a sense of isolation and tension is ever present can go a long way in increasing the player’s immersion, and so I wish that there was a bit more to it here.
All of that said, Q.U.B.E. is a fun game that presents a lot of challenge and reward in its few hours of gameplay. And if the 2-3 hour campaign sounds a bit short, don’t be concerned. There are other modes to play – including a time challenge mode that is unlocked upon completion that adds even more trickiness to some of the puzzles. The game manages to be fresh throughout the entire experience, and avoids the pitfalls of becoming repetitive at every turn. Q.U.B.E. is a must play for puzzle enthusiasts, and for anyone who is looking for a fun challenge.