At first glance, it’s impossible not to judge Q.U.B.E. as a Portal clone, and while the game may have taken some inspiration from Valve’s puzzler, it doesn’t make it any less of a game.
Waking up with no memory as to who or where you are, a woman interrupts the silence with a radio transmission that paints a disturbing picture – you are alone, trapped onboard a spacecraft that is on a crash course with earth. After warning you of the maddening confines of deep space, the radio cuts out as the voice transmitting the signal goes out of orbit. Upon reflecting on this stark warning, and taking a fresh look at my confines, it’s evident that the sterile environment I was in looks like a padded cell – was I really on board an alien spacecraft?
Your sense of what is going on in Q.U.B.E. will be tested each time a new transmission is received, and to add to any confusion you might have, there is also a rival signal that paints a different picture – but which one will you follow? Is the new voice just a confused astronaut who has gone insane within his own padded cell? It’s a great concept and something I feel that should have been developed further during the short campaign, which climaxes in an ending that lets you decide an outcome depending on how you perceived the narrative.
Q.U.B.E.’s physics-based puzzles must be bested to prevent the alien ship from crashing into earth – let’s just backtrack a minute – to stop a ship from crashing you must complete a set of block puzzles? That is a weird scenario to comprehend and not something I fully accepted, but there are puzzles that need solving, which is the main reason that most people will download Q.U.B.E.
To progress through the game, you must manipulate coloured blocks with your high-tech gloves to create a path through each room. Every colour has a different attribute; red blocks can be pulled out of the walls and floors to make a column up to three blocks high while yellow ones form a staircase of three blocks. Blue blocks can be set so that they launch you (or an object) up into the air and green blocks must be moved around to help you get to out of reach ledges. In later levels, purple arrows are thrown in that when pressed rotate a section of the room you’re in, which can really mess with your perception.
My favourite puzzles included navigating a green ball through a maze and directing light beams through several different coloured blocks to create the colour of the keystone. Minus the light puzzles, everything in Q.U.B.E. is based around simple physics, and while not mind bogglingly difficult, the puzzles were a joy to play and give a wonderful sense of achievement as you best each one.
Starting off simple, the puzzles get steadily harder before they suddenly remove the training wheels, allowing you to decide which of the coloured blocks you place on the different surfaces, but I was challenged most during the ten levels of Against the Clock mode – devious time trials that demand precision and quick reflexes if you are to best them to grab the gold medal and top the online leaderboards.
It’s the Against the Clock mode that gave me the most cause for complaint with Q.U.B.E. I found the puzzles within this mode to be far more creative and clever than the whole of the main campaign, it also begs the question that there should also be a level designer for gamers to create their own evil creations to challenge their friends.
Q.U.B.E.’s simplistic design and puzzle mechanics make it an adorable title that steadily gets harder and harder. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with Portal, especially when the second half of the game includes crumbling chambers, but I had a great time wandering through the blocky world of Q.U.B.E. even if its climax came far too soon. If you enjoy 3D puzzlers, then I highly recommend you pick this up – it’s a great evening’s entertainment!
Thanks to Xbox and Grip Games for supporting TiX
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