Developer: Toxic Games
Publisher: Grip Digital
Release Date: December 17th, 2011
Available On: Mobile, Nintendo Wii U, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
When Portal came out in 2007 a lot of people were impressed by its unique mechanics and since then many games have tried to find something similar. Q.U.B.E. tries to be another first person puzzle game with unique mechanics, yet can this game even hope to match Portal or will it be another forgettable clone?
Q.U.B.E. opens up with an astronaut waking inside of a mysterious cube. He has no memory of how he got there, but he gets contacted by two people: a female astronaut in the International Space Station who insists that this is an alien vessel on it’s way to destroy Earth that you must disassemble, and a man who has been trapped in the cube for a long time who believes that it’s an underground government testing laboratory. Both of them make convincing arguments either way, though this isn’t a story where you can choose who you believe: one is right and one is wrong and it doesn’t change. The strong voice acting and writing helps carry it, but at times it does feel like an afterthought. Mostly because it is: the story was actually completely patched in a few years after the game came out. It’s enough to make me care about the characters and environment, but not enough that I’ll be thinking about it after finishing the game.
Much like Portal, Q.U.B.E. is a first person puzzle game with no combat and simple elements used in complicated ways. The main gameplay element revolves around colored cubes that can be raised and lowered. Red cubes can just be raised and lowered up to three times, blue ones turn into springboards when lowered, and yellow ones raise and lower in sets of three. At first you just need to figure out the right ways to raise and lower the platforms to jump around and reach the exits, but before long the game starts to introduce new elements. New panels that rotate blocks or mess with the gravity provide additional challenges to the puzzles.
Yet it won’t only be moving blocks to reach exits. Puzzles take new forms and had me lifting balls to roll them down hills, or moving cubes around to reflect beams of light. Q.U.B.E. is always finding new ways to use these simple mechanics and expand them. Not all puzzles are fun though. One late-game puzzle required me to separate four cubes into four corners using gravity. Not difficult to see that’s the answer, but actually doing it was a painful trial-and-error thing that took forever. Sometimes things were just left to physics: I’d simply have to hope something bounced or rolled the right way this time. It’s a little frustrating sometimes, but overall most of the puzzles aren’t designed this way so it was a problem I could ignore.
Q.U.B.E.’s campaign’s length will depend on how good you are at solving the puzzles, but the average player can probably expect it to last about 4-6 hours. There aren’t many real collectibles, but there are a few hidden passages with secret puzzles inside of them to be solved. After you finish the game there is a second game mode called Against the Qlock which has 10 puzzles that you have to try and finish under a par-time. Nothing crazy, but a little fun for people who enjoy the puzzles and it adds a couple more hours to the game.
It’s not quite Portal amazing, but Q.U.B.E. is a surprisingly fun first person puzzle game that should be on the list of fans for this genre. It makes me really hopeful that a Q.U.B.E 2 can add a lot and take this concept to new places.