It's like Portal, but not...
Puzzle games are dime a dozen, however Toxic Games has just released a rather interesting effort with Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, simplified simply as Q.U.B.E. Coming out of the gate with a simple, yet effective interface and some rather impressive visuals for a indie release, how does Q.U.B.E perform in the long run?
What Q.U.B.E Got Right
Challenging puzzles - Q.U.B.E is a head scratching puzzler that is rather reminiscent of Valve’s successful Portal series. While it may lack the story and polish that Valve are known for, it does feature some truly challenging puzzles that will test even the most experience gamer.
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Puzzles consist of various block types, all which have specific properties. Red blocks can be extruded out by three, yellow blocks can form tiered stairways, blue blocks can be pushed down to act as a springboard, green blocks can be manipulated by physics, and purple blocks rotate entire sections of the room. Each element is slowly introduced, which makes the player feel like a genius until the eventually get stuck. Each puzzle is crafted in such a way that the solution will eventually become apparent, and the player will eventually be successful.
Accessible gameplay - Q.U.B.E does a great job at ensuring that players of all skill levels can simply pick up the game and start playing. There is no HUD to speak of; players simply point their cursor at a block, and left click to extrude the block, or right click to push it down. That’s all there is to it - no tutorials, no explanations, it becomes second nature after just a few seconds.
Perfect length - Q.U.B.E isn’t a 10 hour game, and that’s okay. Experienced players will be able to breeze through the puzzles in a 2-4 hours, while those of us who get stuck from time to time will get to spend a while longer in the game. Considering the low price tag attached to the game, and the lack of narrative, that seems like the perfect length for this type of game.
What Q.U.B.E Got Wrong
Lack of purpose -
Q.U.B.E has a sense of something untoward happening behind the scenes, and while subtle hints certainly point in that direction, nothing is ever built upon or resolved. Why is the player waking up in this facility, groggy and disorientated? Why are we moving through this never ending Apple store that is beaming with a white sheen? Where did these powerful gloves come from? These are all valid questions that could have been resolved by something as simple as some text dialogue, but unfortunately we're never given such a luxury. It leaves the gaming lacking purpose, and at times will cause the player to lose interest.
Originality - There is a difference between taking an idea and giving it your own unique twist, or taking an idea and copying it verbatim. Q.U.B.E walks dangerously in the grey area between those two sentiments. It is hard not to find blatant comparisons to Valve's Portal series, so much so that some of the puzzles even feel like they belong in the Aperture Science Labs. While Q.U.B.E does offer enough differences to play as a separate game, it lacks true originality.
Disappointing ending - Despite the lack of narrative, the player spends the game progressively learning how to solve puzzles with the various block types and methods. The final areas should have been the most challenging of the entire game, using everything we had learned up until that point. It didn't. Instead players are greeted with some fairly easy puzzles that can breezed over. It makes the journey seem less rewarding, and is quite a let down.
The Final Verdict
At the end of the day Q.U.B.E is challenging, fun and the perfect example of just how far indie games have come. While it may lack originality, if you're a fan of puzzle games, this could be well worth your time and money.
By Stephen Heller