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Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut Review
People often complain that video games these days hold the player’s hand way too much. There is always a prompt telling you which button to push or a hint explaining something that you could easily figure out on your own. Well, here’s a perfect counter example.
Q.U.B.E. is a clever problem-solving game developed by Toxic Games that respects the intelligence of the gamer with its complete absence of tutorials. This is especially notable because this game has a huge variety of different and challenging puzzles. Even the occasional voice communication explaining the story to our amnesiac protagonist does not give the player any kind of instruction on how to proceed. It is all up to the player to observe, experiment, and understand.
The objective is to maneuver past obstacles and unlock doors to the next chamber by manipulating different color-coded cubes. The colors of these cubes indicate their properties. You can create platforms, bridges, and trampolines, rotate walls, pull cubes to a certain direction with magnetic force, and so on. On the surface this may seem simple, but Q.U.B.E. is far from being an easy, one-trick horse. Every time you think the game starts growing formulaic and predictable, a new element is thrown into the mix for you to figure out. The constant variety ups the difficulty and keeps the game from growing stale. This perpetually challenges your brain to learn and adapt.
Stylistically, the title is reminiscent of Portal, although it takes itself way more seriously. Some might prefer the more lighthearted atmosphere of Portal, but you have to respect the developers for not trying to replicate the formula of other games and creating something unique instead. And there is without a doubt enough potential here to turn Q.U.B.E. into another successful franchise to wrap your head around.
That being said, Q.U.B.E. is not without its faults. For one, the bland monotone environment can get depressing on the long run. More importantly, despite how well most of the actual puzzles are designed, some of them can be incredibly frustrating. There were a couple of instances where I knew exactly what to do, but because my timing with pressing a button was slightly off or because there was barely enough time to interact with the right cube at the proper moment, I had to repeat the same steps over and over again until I succeeded. It kind of takes away from the rewarding feeling of figuring out a puzzle when your timing has to be spot-on or it’s back to square one. This might not be a problem for people who don’t mind incorporating fast reflexes and precision with their reasoning skills, but for those who just want the satisfaction of feeling smart, it will most likely result in a few curses and annoyed moans. The final magnet puzzle in particular will take a lot of patience, as you have to move four cubes with different velocities to specific spots. This took about five minutes to figure out but at least fifteen minutes to accomplish. In general, the physics-based magnet puzzles were the least enjoyable.
The main story is rather short, and the only thing that could give immediate replay value would be to find the secret rooms. However, there is also a time trial mode where your goal is to reach the goal within the time limit. This mode is a decently fun change of pace, since the puzzles are easier but require faster thinking. Besides that, there’s not much else. However, given the price many may find the amount of content reasonable.
For fans of puzzle games, Q.U.B.E., for the most part, is a delight. Though frustrating at times, it has enough atmosphere, creativity, and variety to keep your interest until the end credits roll. With a little bit of fine-tuning it could have been the modern classic that Portal became, but for its price tag it’s certainly worth a shot. Here’s to hoping there will be more, because the potential and effort is undeniable.
*This review is based off the PlayStation 4 release.