Q.U.B.E. is a physics puzzler developed by Toxic Games and published by Grip Games. It’s available for Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC and will be coming to WiiU soon. This review is of the Director’s Cut, which adds some content to the base game played on PS4.
When playing Q.U.B.E. one is immediately reminded of Portal, which has set the standard for physics puzzlers. Like Portal, Q.U.B.E. is first person, has a minimalist sterile setting, and the story has a mysterious lab rat feel to it. While the puzzles in Q.U.B.E. are quite good, everything else in the game seems unnecessary and even detracts from the pure puzzle solving fun. The mechanics are simple in Q.U.B.E. One trigger activates a block, the other trigger de-activates it, with some exceptions. Different types of blocks are color coded for your convenience and corresponding with each color is a different way the player can manipulate the block. Pushing, pulling, rotating and launching the blocks to solve each puzzle is enjoyable, clever, rewarding and at times challenging—everything you want a puzzle game to be. The problem with Q.U.B.E.’s puzzles is that the physics seem a bit wonky. It can be hard to predict just how objects will react to certain forces even after trying the same procedure multiple times, adding a lot of frustration to executing the solution to a puzzle. Also there is a timing element to many puzzles that can be frustrating as well. Pushing a block to intersect an object at just the right time seems like a clever puzzle solving element, but when you’re stuck in first person with a controller in your hand just simply moving the camera to the correct angle at the precise time can become the toughest part of executing a solution. That being said, if the game were being played on PC with mouse and keyboard that problem may be greatly minimized—or if you just have awesome hand-eye coordination which obviously the reviewer does not. In Q.U.B.E. you play as an amnesiac astronaut trapped inside some sort of Borg-cube alien death machine on a course for Earth. Your job is to move through the ship’s very linear pathways disabling it by solving puzzles along the way. It’s a premise that seems manufactured merely to justify solving puzzles. Yet fans of puzzle games probably don’t need a story-line to enjoy a good puzzle solving session. That said, the music is good and rather calming—something you want while solving a frustrating puzzle. The voice acting in Q.U.B.E. is also very good, with the talented voices of Rupert Evans and Rachel Robinson intermittently giving you cryptic and conflicting information about who you are and what your task is in this labyrinthine puzzle-craft. The story seems to be leading up to a philosophical statement about trust or at least a major twist or decision at the end. Yet instead the ending is fixed, much like the level design, and while there’s a hopeful and cinematic ending, it makes the whole story up to that point seem futile. There is also a timed challenge mode called “Against the Qlock.” For those that enjoy the stress of trying to solve puzzles while being timed, then presumably that’s a nice addition to Q.U.B.E. This mode has the added bonus of a scoreboard to broadcast your humiliation or accomplishment for all to see.
The puzzles are Q.U.B.E.’s strength. The game would have seemed like a more pure and enjoyable experience if all the added fluff were trimmed back. The music and voice acting is great and the puzzles clever. In the final section of the game you get to use most of the skills you’ve learned throughout the game, which is rewarding. Yet the story seems tacked on and lacks the rewarding feeling of the puzzles. Glitches in the physics and difficulties in working camera angles and timing elements into puzzle solving definitely detracts from the experience as well. Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut is available for $9.99 for PC, PS3, PS4 and Xbox One with a WiiU release coming soon. Fans of physics puzzlers may want to give this game a play for it’s fun and clever puzzles. However, I recommend getting it for PC instead of console. This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on PS4.
The music and voice acting is great and the puzzles clever. Glitches in the physics and difficulties in working camera angles and timing elements into puzzle solving definitely detracts from the experience though.