REVIEW / Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut (PS4)

 

Puzzle games seem to be hit or miss with the hardcore gaming community these days, especially those designed to be played on consoles.  While these types of games seem to thrive in the mobile market where players just want to have a quick session while they are waiting in line at the DMV, puzzle games have to be something really special in order to capture the imagination of the hardcore gamer.  However, when a game comes along that is able to capture the spirit of true puzzle solving and combines that with a cool sci-fi backstory, the player can figure out right away that they need to be prepared for one exciting journey.

 

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Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut comes from the developers at Toxic Games and publisher Grip Games who were also responsible for the heavily-addicting, never-the-same-twice shooter Tower of Guns.  In this physics-based, first-person puzzler, you awake in a mystery-packed spaceship, with your only hope of escape being the clever manipulation of a collection of physics-bending blocks.  Do you have what it takes to discover all the secrets of this mysterious ship and finally find your way home?

 

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You only ever see your hands. Your finger tips and palm will glow the same color as the block that you are targeting.

 

Gameplay in Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut is pretty simple: just manipulate the colored blocks and balls to solve the puzzle and move to the next area.  What isn’t so simple is figuring out how to manipulate the environment in order to place the blocks in a fashion that solves the puzzle and allows you to continue forward in the game.  Initially, you don’t get any hand holding as it’s up to you to figure out what the different colored blocks do and how to use them to your advantage.

 

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Every so often you will come across areas that are lit with colored light to mix up the variety of the environments.

 

The game begins with you being awoken by a soothing yet unfamiliar female voice.  As you pick yourself up off of the floor, you look around to discover that you are in a white room made of hundreds of white blocks with that soothing voice speaking to you about your current predicament.  It is up to you to figure out from this short introduction where to go and how to get the colored blocks to bend to your will.  To manipulate a block, you simply place the reticule on the block and pull the left or right trigger to make it, “do what it do, baby!”  The story is just window dressing, mainly, placed there to create a sense of immediacy and as the impetus to keep you moving forward.  After all, from what you have been told, the fate of the entire planet Earth is riding on your shoulders.

 

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Some areas are only lit with light from the glowing blocks making for a surreal atmosphere.

 

If you have been looking at the images of the different areas in the game and you have been playing games for any appreciable length of time, you will immediately notice the graphical resemblance to another critically acclaimed, physics-based puzzle game: Portal.  While the visuals may be similar, I assure you that the gameplay is not.  The bulk of the areas in the game are made up of white and gray shaded blocks with the blocks that you can manipulate coming in shades of red, blue, yellow, green and purple, for the most part.  This helps to set them apart from the blocks that you obviously can’t directly manipulate, while offering a game element that mostly remains the same no matter where you go.  This color scheme keeps the game simple by allowing you to never be confused about what areas you can control and what areas you cannot control.

 

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Certain sections in an area can be rotated which makes for some pretty challenging puzzle solving.

 

There really isn’t a lot of sound effects in this game but that is to be expected being that you aren’t shooting aliens or blowing up entire office buildings.  The blocks themselves do make distinguishable sounds depending on their specific function so that interacting with them is realistic.  The music that plays at different points in the game is sufficiently engaging and really helps to set the mood of the game right from the start.  Where this game really shines, however, is in the voice acting department.  Award-winning industry legend Rob Yescombe, writer on Crisis 2 and Alien: Isolation was brought in to create an amazing script that was then brought to life by actors Rupert Evans (The Canal) and Rachel Robinson (He’s Such a Girl) to create a whole new level of immersion to this releases mystery-filled narrative.

 

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You will come across some damaged areas which will make solving the puzzle a little more difficult.

 

While I had an awesome time playing this game, one aspect that quickly lost its luster for me was the fact that the environments don’t really change that much from one area to another and you just find yourself solving one puzzle and then following a corridor or taking a platform ride to the next area and solving the next puzzle.  Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut‘s resemblance to Portal is inevitable but one thing that Portal has that Q.U.B.E. doesn’t are its varied environments that helped the game feel alive and believable.  Q.U.B.E.s areas feel claustrophobic for the most part and don’t do a good enough job of making you feel like you are painstakingly trudging your way through some enormous space ship that is capable of taking out an entire planet.  Nonetheless, this wasn’t a deal breaker for me and I still found myself trying to solve just one more puzzle even though I probably should have put the controller down and went to bed.

 

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Most areas look like this with just the plain white walls and a few colored blocks to manipulate in order to solve the puzzle.

 

Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut is available now on the PS3, PS4, Xbox One via the [email protected] self-publishing program, and the Wii U for $9.99.  The cool thing is that on the PSN, the game supports cross-buy so if you purchase it on PS3 or PS4, you get an instant free copy for the other console.  You can’t argue with that for a bargain.  I would have paid $15 to $20 dollars for this game easily because the amount of engaging gameplay and the experience that it provides definitely warrants the value.  If you are into puzzle games and you liked Portal then definitely support the girls and guys over at Toxic Games and pick up a copy today.  You really will not be disappointed.

 

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