Making a first-person puzzle game these days can’t be easy, especially in the shadow of Portal’s runaway success. Still domineering even now, it can make any new entry problematic to say the least, and Q.U.B.E. seems to realise that. Taking a few of the visual concepts and design choices to heart, it can seem overly derivative at first glance. Thankfully, Toxic Games were more than talented enough to have it stand on its own two legs.
The foremost difference here stems from just how you interact with the subject matter, and it’s the real meat of the game. Whereas Portal had one gimmick but used it intelligently, Q.U.B.E. gives the player a Swiss-army-knife of abilities, casting and creating coloured blocks on subjects. Certain ones can be elevated to be used as platforms, others to alter how they work then the player steps on them. While limited to a few specific objects, it provides a widely diverse series of options where the exact solution is rarely obvious.
Each section of puzzles are, in of themselves, divided up into various sub-sections focusing upon varying themes. These range from simple platform systems to more dynamic themes like magnetism, and as a result there’s an ever present sense of originality. It never sticks with one idea too long for it to grow stale, and in progressing from one distinct environment to the next it’s evident that you’re progressing onwards. Something vital to any puzzle game given how stumped you can end up over a certain logical loophole or overlooking the solution.
The actual environments themselves prove to be surprisingly distinct. While following the aforementioned issue of seeming sterile at first before gradually breaking down bit by bit, it still manages to seem gradual and maintains its identity as opposed to a more abrupt jump. This is again key to the sense of progression, but it also helps it remain visually engaging, something the game definitely needed given how often areas resemble Minecraft locales.
Unfortunately, the key problems here arise more from the physics than any other issue. The aforementioned magnetics puzzles in particular prove to be frustrating and at times extraordinarily tedious, often unnecessarily drawn out and ill paced. Many objects such as balls and blocks also rarely move naturally, and all too often it’s extremely obvious that they’re being guided by the game itself.
Q.U.B.E. certainly proves to be a fun distraction, brief, satisfying and succinct. If you’re after a series of short but intelligently created puzzle scenarios, it’s easily one of the best options on the Playstation 4. While rough around the edges it’s more than satisfying, so give this one a look.
Q.U.B.E. / DEVELOPER: TOXIC GAMES / PUBLISHER: INDIE FUND, ACTIVISION / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 3, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE, WII U/ RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW