Time to stretch those puzzle solving muscles friends, and that’s not all. Your origin is a mystery, your mission is withheld from you, voices pipe in that may or may not be trustworthy. Ready to play a game that uses minimal options to confound and confuse? Good because with Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut we’ve got us a player that plays it close to the vest and challenges you to beat the house with its own brand of slick first person navigation of complex spaces. It’s a good thing you will learn a lesson or two in there as you experiment your way to success.
I’m usually not as impressed by games that get a lot out of minimalism because it has become passe but in this case I make an exception. Have you ever been in a hospital or similar facility where the fluorescent lights rain down an imposing air? We’ve got some of that in the spaces made up of white cubes. These are each rounded off with a hardiness that really makes you feel like you’re the nut in the padded room. This is offset wonderfully by the brighter colored shapes that you can move. Everything’s very very clean in here, nice and crisp, plus things are laid out so you won’t get disoriented. The game wants to challenge you, not make you dizzy. I do have a gripe about the visuals but surprisingly it will have to come up in the gameplay paragraph not the graphics.
In this kind of space you really need the audio to match up with the visuals and the gang at Toxic seems to have it covered. As such it isn’t the kind of thing that hits you in the face, it sets the ambiance when things are “thinky thinky” and comes up with the tones that match the proper tensions going on. You won’t be humming the tunes or anything, but that’s good, they are meant to be a bit ponderous. The original score can really impress in a few spots. I’m feeling so-so on the voice acting, but it’s not bad or anything.
So, welcome to the unknown location you need to escape from. “How am I gonna do that?” You say. Well, you’re going to get familiar with blocks again first. From Q-bert to Mario to Catherine to Q.U.B.E. the block never ceases to find a way to become something new. Remember those colors I mentioned? They are important as the blocks’ color defines its function. You’ll have to learn how to put the pieces together on your own but the basics you start with are as follows: yellow makes stairs (or possibly a useful platform if you are jumping around), blue makes for a nice launchpad, and red is an extendable and retractable plank. There are more colors and functions as you go, with challenges that will have you rolling balls like Roy Munson and mixing colors like Rembrandt, or just sitting there scratching your head. Since each set of blocks has multiple settings you’ll have to decode and recode where things sit in the space to make it to the next room. My main gripe is that I was occasionally deceived by the distances that were jumpable and I’m confident that part of that was the fault of the visual presentation. Far away things can appear much closer.
I fear puzzlers to be honest with you. I overthink every solution, come up with some grand idea and it fails so I get frustrated. Q.U.B.E. takes care not to, for lack of a better phrase, piss you off until you’re ready for it. Toxic totally gets the human mind as far as giving you what you’re ready for. The game does this by teaching you lessons with every puzzle that are useful in the ensuing ones. When you’re learning this game you aren’t thinking about much else. I like that, and I’ll make a finer point of it at the end of the article.
Stark, emotionless box play is no fun. No problem, there’s still that mystery to solve. Who are you? Where are you really going? Why are you here? What’s on the outside? Is there an outside? Listen to the voices and put the pieces together while you … well put pieces together. It’s a good story for folks that don’t like their entertainment spoon fed.
Okay we’ve got a pretty great puzzler shaping up but is there any reason to pick it up again after you get through? After all, avid puzzle fans can probably beat it in a couple to a few hours time. If you’re like me and have to fail more to win then it will keep you busy for longer. The puzzles in the middle and back end of the game won’t be remembered easily so a person certainly could return to it to squeeze out some more enjoyment through frustration. The Director’s Cut piece is what really gives the game a good replayablility factor. You are provided with a set of hidden puzzles that, when found, actually do add to the experience. Plus there’s the Time Trial mode where you can prove you are just as agile as your mind. I’d recommend playing the campaign first though, you need to learn those lessons unless you want a huge challenge on your hands.
A simple science fiction setting, a worthwhile mystery, and cleverly designed conundrums that are paced out just right make Q.U.B.E. something I would recommend to any puzzle fan. Finally I wanted to mention an effect I noted: the game makes for a clean break from reality as it absorbs all your thought power. The virtual reality-like atmosphere has an effect that tunes out the real world. As such it makes for a fine little prison that you can escape to while you try to escape from …. wherever it is you are.
Reviewed on PS4. Review copy provided by the publisher.