Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut Reviews

Titanium Dragon
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 844
Posted on 18 February 17 at 07:51
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Q.U.B.E. is a minimalist first-person puzzle game. You wake up in a sterile environment consisting entirely of white cubes. There are a small number of colored blocks – when you point at them and press your mouse, you can cause them to extrude from the walls or retract back into them. There are four kinds of blocks – purple blocks, which rotate the environment (either 90 degrees or, in a small number of puzzles, 45 degrees. There are red blocks, which extrude a line up to three blocks long. There’s yellow blocks, which always come in threes; clicking on either end causes them to extrude 1 block on the opposite end, 2 blocks in the middle, and 3 blocks on the clicked block. And there’s blue blocks, which slingshot you (or any other object) when you touch them.

There’s a couple other mechanics – there are some round marbles which must be navigated through environments by use of the block mechanics, as well as some autonomous robots which always turn left which must be navigated through the environment using block mechanics. Later on, there are some wires (which, when they contact pads, light them up – these are only used for a very small number of puzzles, as they are pretty limited) and a few laser light puzzles, where you must reflect a laser using mirrors to get to the final point.

A few puzzles make use of tinting blocks – either to change the color of lasers or to change the color of marbles – which adds an additional element to some puzzles.

While the game tries to do a lot with its mechanics, I have to say that a lot of the puzzles weren’t actually all that much fun to solve. The game was very fond of the marble puzzles, but I have to say these were my least favorite part of the game; some of them involved fairly exact timing, particularly on some blocks with some amount of delay to them (the yellow ones), and on at least one puzzle that involved rotation, I’m fairly certain I “cheated” the game and didn’t solve it the “right way”. It was also common to face several marble puzzles in a row, which made them feel a bit more repetitive than they might have otherwise.

However, the game as a whole doesn’t have all that many tricks to show the player; it clocks in around four hours in length for the main game, plus maybe another couple hours for the various side challenges if you’re intent on getting a lot of medals. But the game simply doesn’t have all that many puzzle elements to it, and so after a while it feels like the game is just remixing stuff you’ve seen a bunch without doing anything particularly clever with it. The fifth zone – doing puzzles in the dark – was particularly notable in this regard, as the main mechanic was that you couldn’t see all of what you were doing at the same time. This wasn’t a particularly fun mechanic, but it didn’t really do anything new with the puzzles, just made it more inconvenient to solve them. The first couple zones of the game were basically a tutorial in the games’ mechanics as well, with a lot of very simple puzzles which weren’t all that interesting to solve.

And unfortunately, this game doesn’t boast much else other than puzzles; whereas Portal boasted GlaDOS, Wheatly, and Cave Johnson constantly chattering at you, Q.U.B.E.’s “mission control” voices are somewhat more limited in their appearances. Worse, however, is the fact that they just aren’t all that interesting; one of them says you’re saving the Earth, the other one says that the first voice is lying and you’re imprisoned in the Earth solving puzzles for their sadistic satisfaction. The second voice introduces a fair bit of fridge logic to the game, but neither scenario being presented to the player ultimately feels like it makes much sense – the second voice points out the ridiculousness of the game’s premise, but the game never really to justify why someone would be doing what they were doing. And unfortunately, in a non-comedy game that seems to be taking itself seriously, that’s a bit of a problem; why am I supposedly in some sort of alien spaceship solving puzzles to destroy it? How does that make sense? How does the player character solving these puzzles have any relation to stopping the ship? And, assuming that mission control really is telling the truth, how do they know that there is an escape shuttle waiting at the end of the ship for you?

There isn’t even any real attempt at explaining all this made by the game, which seemed to be trying to be cleverly ambiguous but instead simply undermined itself.

The one thing that I can say that the game did well was its graphics; Q.U.B.E. is an indie game, but by making use of the extremely minimalist environment composed almost entirely of white cubes, the producers managed to make a game that looks very good – I don’t think anyone would immediately identify it as an indie game just by looking at it, at least not at the start. The environments were very clean and were visually appealing, though unfortunately by the end of the four-hour long game the white cube walls had begun to get a bit samey looking, and mixing it up with ruined areas didn’t really work, instead making it just look kind of dingy.

Ultimately, like a number of similar minimalist puzzle games (such as Quantum Conundrum, Antichamber, and The Talos Principle), Q.U.B.E. feels like it was emulating Portal, but failed to recognize that Portal worked so well in part because the new mechanic, the portal gun, was virgin territory. Nothing in Q.U.B.E. felt like virgin territory. And while the Talos Principle managed to carry itself with a clever story and worldbuilding, Q.U.B.E.’s attempt at a serious story didn’t feel like it ultimately made much sense or was particularly well-written. The voice actors did a decent job with their lines; the problem was that the plot itself made no real sense, and indeed, the game undermined itself by questioning its own nature and then not really resolving all the inconsistencies it brought up

If there was one mercy to this game, it was that it was short, clocking in at only around 4 hours to beat the main story, including all the side content therein. But without a really interesting central mechanic or plot, there’s not much here worth experiencing. My advice? Play the Portal games or The Talos Principle instead.
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TSA Score for this game: 375
Posted on 05 March 18 at 19:27
New solutionThis review has 0 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
There are two parts to Q.U.B.E. Like most games, there's the story and then there's the gameplay.

The gameplay in Q. U. B. E. Director's Cut is actually quite good. You start the game in a weird space built out of cubes, with a pair of gloves that allows you to interact with a small amount of the world, namely colored bricks.

From this, the game is based on manipulating those bricks, traversing the levels, and exploring the world.

And that's what Q.U.B.E. does exceedingly well. I played this game back before the Director's Cut and remember one or two puzzles I had trouble with. This time around, I only had a single problem with a puzzle (an annoying puzzle, but it's also the last one in the game I believe). However, the puzzles are a highlight of the game and will make most fans of puzzle games or games where the goal is to merely traverse a level (like Portal) enjoy themselves.

On the other hand there's a story, and to be honest, that's where the game falls apart. The original Q.U.B.E. didn't have a story and I remember thinking "Man I'd love to have some reasoning for me to do this." Hell, I'm sure I suggested a portal-esque story.

Unfortunately, I got what I requested, and worse... well it's just bad. The story itself feels disjointed, as if it was placed in the middle of an already complete game (which it was) and sadly the game isn't better for it. The story tries to be this deep probing or even contemplative thing. But comes across as just manipulative and forgettable. Even the ending is just there. I like the puzzles, not the part where the game tries to talk to and interact with the player.

I actually wish there was a way to not play the story (I still have Q.U.B.E. so I can just play the old version). It's just not a good addition to the original game, luckily they have made it a free upgrade otherwise I would have been unable to recommend this version of the game.

However with that being said, the gameplay is above average, there are some time attack maps that you can play that are actually quite difficult, there's a lot of enjoyment to be had on the first playthrough of the game. Just don't expect an amazing story or even a game you can play through more than once. You'll spend a couple hours playing the game, and get a fun experience, but it's not going to blow any minds, and since it came out in the same year as Portal 2, it didn't win any awards. That all being said, it's still a solid experience and quite enjoyable for fans of the puzzle genre.
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