Q.U.B.E. Review

Q.U.B.E. may have some wonderfully clever puzzles, but without any sort of personality, it ends up feeling as boring as its whitewashed walls.

Q.U.B.E. is a game about problem solving and navigation. While not exactly fair, it's impossible to look at it and not draw a comparison to Valve's first-person puzzler Portal. Both have very clean environments; both are focused on logic and problem solving. However, Portal succeeds in building an engaging and humorous world, whereas Q.U.B.E. feels like the video game equivalent of doing homework. It is a game completely devoid of personality, and as sterile as its bleach-white walls. The fundamental puzzle design may be solid, but without context, you're left with little reason to see it through to completion.

Q.U.B.E. is mysterious. It opens with your character waking up on an elevator descending into a facility. As the player, you don't know where you are, who you are, or what's happening. What you do know is that you're wearing an interesting pair of gloves. Tipped with penlights, the gloves are your sole tool for manipulating objects in the environment. You can use them on a red block to cause it to rise out of the ground or step on a blue block to be propelled into the air.

You are introduced to these objects individually so that you can learn their properties. The game does an excellent job of teaching you its mechanics step by step before turning you loose on a fully realized challenge. Early on, your tasks just have you manipulating blocks so that you can reach higher platforms and move to the next area. Then, the game throws all of these elements together, and it's up to you to puzzle out the solution.

Because Q.U.B.E. introduces its mechanics so effectively, you won't find yourself struggling to understand the principles that govern the puzzles. It's always a matter of logic. The challenge feels smooth and natural, but the game changes things on you periodically so that you don't get too comfortable. Just when you get used to one type of puzzle, you're introduced to another. You may find yourself suddenly needing to guide a ball through a maze or navigate a dark room where you can only see the colored blocks. New blocks and other elements are introduced throughout to keep the challenges interesting.

Once you start playing with lasers and magnets, things get a little tricky.
Once you start playing with lasers and magnets, things get a little tricky.

The entire game is logical and well executed in what it sets out to do; however, it feels as if it were designed by a machine. Q.U.B.E. lacks any sort of personality or intrigue that would engage you and get you invested in the game's world. There is no real reason to progress through its world other than a personal curiosity to see the next challenge. No score is kept, time isn't logged, and there are no leaderboards here. From start to finish, your existence is a silent mystery; never addressed and never explored.

Without a defined context for the action, the game suffers in its presentation. Take the music; should it communicate fear, isolation, curiosity, or something else? It should add to the mood in some way but a mood is never defined, so what you get is a sort of light trance that falls into the background and doesn't add anything to the experience. Throughout it, you're starved for some sort of interaction, but none is ever delivered.

Some puzzles involve moving yourself; others are about moving objects.
Some puzzles involve moving yourself; others are about moving objects.

Q.U.B.E. has a lot of great ideas that are realized in an excellent series of puzzles. These are carefully explained without feeling stifling, and there's always a new challenge waiting around the corner. However, without any competitive element, story, or context for you actions, there is little motivation to advance past your own curiosity. The puzzles are sound, but that's only a fraction of what makes a game enjoyable.

The Good

  • Clever puzzle design
  • Lots of puzzle variation
  • Smooth difficulty curve.

The Bad

  • Game lacks any story, character, or context.