It’s been a while since I last played a puzzle game for the hell of it. I ended up playing 1010! just for the competition of beating my friends, but otherwise, I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to challenge my mind. After having a productive week in regards to games development and work relating things, I decided to dedicate my entire Saturday night to playing and completing a game. So, sitting in front of my Xbox One, I decided to look back through the many games I’ve purchased and never played, and happened across Q.U.B.E, by Toxic games.
I’ve seen the game multiple times in the last few years, but always dismissed it as “just another portal ripoff” before going about my day. It wasn’t until the Develop conference in Brighton that I finally started paying attention to the game when I met Dan Da Rocha. Having spoken to him and then going off and watching some trailers, I decided I would buy the game, and one day (time pertaining) would give it a play. Suffice to say, I’m glad I did.
The game starts out like a typical indie game: you’ve lost your memory, and are in a strange simplistic (aetsthically speaking) place. You walk along and start getting voices radioed to you: apparently you’re in a space station which is close to earth and have been tasked with destroying this alien station for the benefit of all mankind. Walking on, you find a room which makes you go into sectors, with the first sector teaching you the basics of the game; namely cube manipulation.
You see, QUBE (which stands for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) does what it says on the tin. You must make your way from point A to point B (the exit) using blocks that extrude from the walls and floor. Each colour of blocks behave in a different way: red blocks are regular and extrude one press at a time, yellow extrudes as a group, blue as a spring, and purple as a room rotation. Using different combinations of these blocks will allow you to traverse the environment, and in turn, get to another sector.
When I write it down like that it makes the game sound a lot easier than it actually is, but with each new sector comes a new way to use and present this basic building blocks. Sector 4 for example turns out all of the lights, meaning you can only see the colours of a set of blocks when you turn those specific blocks on. I thoroughly enjoyed a sector where you played with exposed electrical wires; multiple grayed out coloured blocks would be laid out before you, and it was up to you to use your block extruding techniques into guided these wires into powering the grayed out blocks. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and made for a new way of looking at the world.
I didn’t feel the graphics was anything great throughout my playthrough; yes, the cubes look polished and the presentation is slick throughout, but at the end of the day, you’re still only looking at a bunch of basic cubes, something modern game engines can do with relative ease. I did enjoy the music though (whenever it made an appearance), as it’s mellow tones and sometimes dramatic bass made the experience feel more alive and serious, something I would never thought I’d say about a puzzle platformer.
The story, to, is actually fairly complex and some great icing on an otherwise tasty cake. The back and forth between two characters saying things completely at odds against at each other leaves you as a player constantly guessing as to what the true intentions of the facility really is. Even in the games final moments, I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. It was exicting, and another reason to keep me motivated throughout the games 2 hour play time.
I suppose what I enjoyed most about Q.U.B.E was the fact that no one thing ever felt out of place or every overstayed its welcome. Puzzles and new mechanics would be shown to the player fairly frequently, pushing them to learn a new method of getting past a section in a short amount of time. Each new mechanic would be iterated time and time again, meaning nothing ever felt repetitive, despite the core building blocks of the game (protruding red, blue, yellow and purple blocks) being exactly the same. It’s extremely clever, and I have to had it to the guys at Toxic Games; they done a fantastic job.
So, is Q.U.B.E a game I should have played when it first come out? Doing a little digging around on Google tells me I made the right choice by playing the game now; the original game (not the directors cut) had no story, and no voice acting, meaning the game was 100% about the puzzles. Whilst these puzzles are good in their own right, I can’t help but feel the game would have felt a little more boring if they were the only thing to experience. Should you not have played the game by now, by all means give it a go; I know I’ll certainly be getting my other half to play the game since she loved portal so much, and I hope if you do play the game, you feel the same way.