Review: Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Edition
You awake in a clinical looking room. It’s studded with white tiles. No memory of how you arrived or what you’re doing there. Suddenly, a burst of radio chatter comes through. You’ve been transported inside this odd structure to shut it down before it crashes into earth! Commander Novak is filling you in on the details, but her transmission cuts out. You are alone. You step through the first door as it closes behind you with an airtight swoosh..
This is your introduction to the world of Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Edition. A puzzle game developed using the ubiquitous Unreal Engine, Q.U.B.E. is a first person, no frills puzzler in the best possible way.
In each room you will find different coloured tiles. Some act as springboards, some extend as platforms and some even rise up to form Tetris-like shapes. Your objective is simple: interact with these panels using your suit and find a solution that lets you exit the room.
The game has no training mode but the developers have paid close attention to the difficulty curve so a tutorial isn‘t really necessary. Puzzle elements are introduced one room at a time and are mixed together in later levels. You’ll go from simple platforming, to guiding a sphere across an obstacle course, to rotating an entire room, to doing all of the above at once. The difficulty never spikes too high as each new problem builds on the knowledge you’ve gained from previous puzzles.
The look is bright, bland and antiseptic. Normally this lack of distinctive visuals would be a turn-off. But given the supposed setting (an isolated object in space) it blends with the tone of the game nicely. It recalls the loneliness of a film like Moon and the lack of visual flair actually adds to the feeling of isolation. Q.U.B.E. also shares the film’s sense of paranoia as the player receives information that suggests all may not be as it seems…
The plot is deliberately bare bones and is gradually revealed to the player through radio chatter between sectors. Again, this feels very much a deliberate decision to keep the player feeling distanced from help. It certainly feels satisfying solving puzzles with only your own gumption to rely on.
The only slight annoyance comes from the puzzles that take place in semi-darkness. It is occasionally hard to fathom where shapes and objects are and this can make some of the platforming a bit trying. How much of this is intentional on the game’s part is hard to say. I also feel the game could have benefited by having a more traditional soundtrack. I get that they were going for a minimalist approach with just sound design but I think a score would have made the experience even more immersive for the player.
Q.U.B.E. is a solid puzzler with well thought out problems that encourage the player to think logically about the game’s environment, rather than resorting to trial and error. The way the game blends story and gameplay is reminiscent of Portal, and whileQ.U.B.E. is very much its own game, it borrows the best storytelling elements from the valve classic.
The voice acting adds immeasurably to the experience, with the radio chatter moving the basic plot forwards and compelling the player to unravel the mystery at the heart of the game.
To sum up
Q.U.B.E.’s lifespan really depends on whether you get stuck on a puzzle or not but I’ve seen people play through it in 2-3 hours. That might not sound like a lot of lifespan but for the retail price of £7.99 I feel it represents good value for money and is a great way to sharpen those puzzle solving talents.
Version Reviewed: PS4
Q.U.B.E.: Directors Edition is out now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation4