QUBE, means “Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion”. It doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it? But, QUBE is a much more elegant and refined puzzle game than the name suggests. It is a slow paced and methodical first person puzzler that only suffers from a very obvious comparison, one that it reminds the player of time and time again, Portal.
The amazing aesthetic design of QUBE is clearly inspired by Portal, it doesn’t share any mechanics or ideas, but the overall influence is there to see. Not that this is a bad thing; Portal is one of my favourite games of all time, so for something to pay homage to it, it had better pull it off. Great news, it does and then some.
Visually, QUBE is stunning, with its bare walls off-setting the bright lights of the puzzle pieces, causing some stunning visuals. This only gets better when, on the later puzzles, you lose all the lighting in the area and you are put in charge of lighting the puzzle pieces yourself. These pure black rooms with gorgeous looking lighting in spots is brilliant.
It is in the Audio that QUBE really picks up. There is little to no outside audio in the game. There is a soundtrack just for this edition, but it isn’t intrusive at all and you barely notice it, allowing you to enjoy the rest of the games audio. you have that real sense of being in space, much like the film Gravity. You have the real sense that you are alone.
Then, someone speaks. There are 3 characters in the game: Yourself, the speechless player who can only listen to transmissions; you then have Novak and Nine-One-Nine. They are 2 sides of the same coin, offering contradictory statements that really bring the story to its conclusion. You never know when they are going to speak to you, and until they do all you have is the very faint background audio and the sound of the puzzle pieces being moved for company, very tense and often nerve-wrecking.
The first set of puzzles put in front of you are fairly simple, with just a selection of RED/BLUE/YELLOW pieces to be moved in their own way. Each colour piece has a set movement so you know what to expect and the whole of Sector One is pretty much a tutorial on what they do and how you interact with them. From Sector Two onwards, new pieces and concepts are brought into play, from playing it in pitch black darkness and having to light your own pieces up to playing with magnets, ramps, lasers or a combination of all three and more!
I won’t spoil any of the puzzles and will leave you to discover and enjoy, but I feel the game definitely has a decent learning curve. You don’t just suddenly find something that isn’t obvious with a bit of lateral thinking. Some of the puzzles are taxing, but nothing that just sitting back and looking at it for a minute can’t resolve. Puzzle games can have the issue of having a steep learning curve all of a sudden, but luckily this isn’t present here.
There are secrets galore in the game. The first time I found one, I had no idea what was going on, but all I had to do was sit back and look at the bigger picture and this allowed me to solve the puzzle, albeit in about 15 minutes, which I think is about right for unique puzzles. There are only 3 I believe in the game (if you are to believe the achievement list), but there are other hidden secrets to find along the way which I have yet to discover.
While we are on the subject of achievements, QUBE is both generous but with a condition, you can roll off about 800 points with a full play through (you get 50 points per Sector Completion and then 50 per puzzle), but there are two achievements on the list that I have no idea how to get or find. Some repeat exploration is going to be required, again not a bad thing as repeat exploration in this sort of game is worthwhile, but there is also a real sense of accomplishment when you finish one of the bonus puzzles or discover a secret. That is where the condition is, if you want to finish this 100%, you are going to need to explore and test!
Overall, QUBE is a stunning game, both visually and in terms of audio, with is sometimes bleak storyline told from the perspective of the two scripted characters. It was a brilliant adventure from start to finish. I will be sure to go back to finish off the last few achievements and get 100%, and I won’t feel like it was a chore to do.
If it has one downfall, and it is a really big if, it would be the controls. There is no rebinding (I would have loved to swap the triggers around) and they feel a bit slow for input. Some of the later puzzles require you to manipulate magnets, and you want to give them a quick blast with the power gloves, but you can’t, as they seem to have some internal cool down on use. Such a minor complaint, but worth mentioning.
With QUBE, you also get a tool to test you against others around the world in the Against the Qlock mode. In this you are given a level to run through as quick as possible. Along the way you will have power-ups to collect that give you various buffs or perks and you are also tasked with manipulating the puzzle pieces a lot quicker. Part of me wishes some of the main story puzzles were a bit faster paced, but I appreciate the narrative they were going for, hence why they are in this mode for people to run against others. I currently occupy number one in the world, but this won’t last long.
QUBE is a brilliant puzzle game! With the addition of the Against the Qlock mode, the gameplay is extended beyond 5 or so hours that the main story will take to complete. I would love to see some custom maps for DLC or expanded maps for Against the Qlock to extend the life even more. If the developers continue to support the game through DLC, it will be terrific! I highly recommend QUBE.
For £9.99, QUBE is a must buy, with an amazing story that will last you about 5+ hours and a brilliant Against the Qlock mode that will have you competing and mocking your friends while you race to finish levels as quick as possible, all while mentally taxing your brain. QUBE looks and sounds stunning and has a brilliant narrative that you follow. If you like puzzle games, or if you liked Portal, you will LOVE QUBE.