After decades of playing the supporting role, the unsung hero of the platforming genre finally gets its time in the spotlight. Years of being pushed around, trod upon, and smashed to pieces have paid off, and now the stalwart cube takes center stage. In Edge, you maneuver the six-sided star of the show around environments composed entirely of its blocky brethren, collecting prisms and trying not to plummet into starry oblivion. The clever level design presents some interesting tests of your limited moveset, while the minimalist visuals and retro soundtrack make the experience more atmospheric than a bunch of blocks floating in space has any right to be. Edge is not a complex game--it focuses on movement rather than puzzle-solving and there are times when the controls don't feel as sharp as they should. But the price of entry is relatively cheap at about seven dollars, and the few hours you spend conducting your cube in Edge are pleasant ones.
The goal in Edge is straightforward: move your cube from the start point of each level to the end point. Levels are composed entirely of other cubes and squares, creating a three-dimensional grid that you must navigate. You view the action from an isometric angle, and the grid is arranged diagonally. You can move your cube in only four directions, but pressing up does not actually make your cube move toward the top of your screen. Instead, you move diagonally up to the right, and pressing down moves you diagonally down to the left. Because of this orientation, using the WASD or the arrow keys requires a mental recalibration that can be disorienting. Fortunately, you can avoid this issue by using the corner numbers on the number pad (1, 3, 7, 9) or the analog stick on an Xbox 360 controller. No matter which control scheme you use, movement in Edge has a vague clumsiness to it. Part of this is because you are trying to "roll" a block around, but your momentum can be awkward at times. When you move to an adjacent square, you reach a tipping point when your cube turns over. If you push at this point, or linger slightly too long, you might tumble an extra square or two by accident. This could be no big deal, or it could lead to is an extra death or two. Fortunately, death is not punished harshly in Edge, so it's not a big frustration, and for the most part you feel comfortable moving through this cubic world.
The primary challenge is to maneuver through each level safely. Your cube can move along flat surfaces and climb on top of single blocks, but if you come up against anything taller, you know it's time to find another route. Aside from rolling and climbing, your only other ability is grabbing edge time. Edge time is a mid-climb stall accomplished by tapping the key or feathering the stick to balance precariously between one level and another. This allows you to cling to a single edge for as long as you can keep your balance. If you grab edge time on a moving block, it can transport you to a new area. Or if you do it on a wall, you can hang over an abyss as one platform moves out from underneath you and another comes to pick you up. These maneuvers, along with situations that require precision timing, are about as tricky as Edge gets. You'll likely die more than a few times as you get the hang of edge time, but with a little perseverance (and some help from the generous checkpoints), you should be able to proceed without too much trouble.
Edge is more a test of reflexes than a test of brainpower. It's almost always clear what direction you need to roll in, and it's not very hard to figure out how to surmount obstacles. Hazards like moving blocks, brittle tiles, bumpers, shrink squares, and who-knows-what-this-will-do buttons are as likely to help as to hinder you, and Edge combines these various elements with thoughtful level design to create some clever paths for you to follow. The touchy momentum can be bothersome as things get trickier, and there is some wiggle room when maneuvering on to moving blocks that can result in sliding to your death when you thought you landed squarely. It's not enough imprecision to spoil the fun, but it does dampen the experience somewhat.
In addition to simply getting to the exit, you can collect prisms along the way, and later levels use tricky prism placement to create opportunities for light puzzle-solving. It's not always clear how to get every prism, so you have to use all your locomotive skills (and the helpful minimap) to hunt them down. Collecting every prism on each level unlocks some bonus levels, as does beating all the levels, bringing the total level count north of 55. At the end of each level, you receive a letter grade and a score based on your time. Any edge time you earn is subtracted from your end time, but the clock is always ticking, so if you can simply sprint to the end, that's the best way to earn a good score. Grabbing edge time while waiting for a moving platform or thinking about your next move helps keep your time down, but this is worth doing only if you're striving for a place on the online leaderboards.
All of this polygonal action is aesthetically pleasing, thanks to the simple lines and colorful contrast of the visuals. The rainbow colors of prisms and moving platforms stand out nicely against the gray levels, and the ever-shifting hues of your cube are an enjoyable sight. The electronic soundtrack adds a dynamic element to the relatively static levels as it moves from peppy and adventurous to moody and atmospheric, perking things up and staving off sameness. There is a certain repetitiveness to Edge born of its simplicity, but to its credit the game manages to entertain for the few hours it takes to complete all the levels. The novel fun of moving around as a box holds up despite some control awkwardness, and there is a good amount of content here for the asking price. Edge may not herald the coming of a new platforming hero, but it may give you a new appreciation for the powers of a humble cube.