It was back in 2015 that I was first wowed by Q.U.B.E.. The Director’s Cut of the initial game pretty much came out of nowhere to deliver a wonderful puzzle experience, allowing anyone who took in its testing stages the chance to fully entwine themselves with the way of the Q.U.B.E.. Now though Q.U.B.E. is back and it is abundantly clear from the very outset that Q.U.B.E. 2 has seen production levels raised, with some glorious visuals, neat gameplay mechanics and a cracking story that twists and turns at every opportunity, all included.
But there are two ways you can skin a cat and the same goes for developing a puzzle title. Do you just drop the player into a series of quick hit screens and ask them to complete it in the best way possible, before throwing them into the next with little rhyme nor reason, or do you try and build atmosphere, deliver a narrative and still ensure that the puzzles taken in are right up there with the very best a gamer can experience?
Well, Toxic Games obviously think the latter is the way forward. And by golly they’ve pulled one out of the bag with Q.U.B.E. 2.
Now, I’m not going to beat around the bush… Q.U.B.E. 2 is utterly brilliant. So brilliant in fact that I’m sat here now still in awe of what Toxic have created, wishing that other studios would go to the same lengths in order to build their own puzzling experiences.
See, from the very first moment you step into the shoes of Amelia Cross, a British archaeologist lost on an alien planet, you are smacked right across the chops by a swathe of atmosphere. And by the time you finish shifting the environments, messing around with colour and taking in the story some eight hours later, you’ll be left wanting to take it all in again and again.
Unfortunately, this is where Q.U.B.E. 2 lets itself down slightly as once that initial playthrough is complete and behind you, there is next to no reason to actually bother playing through things again. Except to maybe head off down the second of two story concluding paths so that you can grab the whole batch of Achievements and Gamerscore that is allowed. But in order to do that you’ll have to crack on from the very beginning again, taking in the exact same tutorial, story and puzzles as previous. Perhaps if there were hidden objects to collect whilst you went about your puzzling adventures, or multiple paths to hunt down, then this could be more tempting, but as it is, another five hours for one Achievement is asking a lot.
But anyways, don’t let me come across all negative with you as aside from that slight issue, there is nothing else to dislike about Q.U.B.E. 2.
With you needing to help Amelia face the challenges of the Q.U.B.E. in order to find her way home, shifting blocks, utilising a special pair of magically powered gloves and using your brain at all times is pretty much the order of the day. And like I previously mentioned, once you start, you really won’t want to stop, with the next test continuing on from its predecessor in a brilliant way.
11 different chapters with multiple stages play home to these puzzles, and with the story pushing along at a swift pace in the background, there is little let up in the action. Granted, each of the stages only really have one solution, and it would perhaps have been nice to be able to see multiple paths to glory, but with you manipulating the environment with your gloves, placing red, blue and green blocks, and helping shift the environment this way and that, Q.U.B.E. 2 really does deliver the goods.
In fact, getting to grips with the basic mechanics of the game is hugely straightforward, but still any new ideas are treated with respect by Toxic Games. At no point will you feel like you have been thrown in with no clue, and as soon as you learn that the blue block fires things around each room, the red creates platforms and the green singular blocks are hugely useful when connected to push plate buttons and magnetic walls, this is one puzzler that is seemingly straightforward. Hell, even the introduction of huge spheres, fans, the chance to coat things with oil, and then to set fire to them in order to smash down fire doors will all become second nature before you know it.
Whilst you will find yourself scratching your head at numerous times throughout this game – after all, we’ve got to remember that this is still a puzzler at heart – at no point should you ever be tempted to fall into that ‘I’ll just YouTube this bit’ trap, as perseverance and dedication will always prove a winner. With there usually just being the one clear route to victory, and only a limited number of placements available for each cube type, a clear and steady mind will happily see you through the day.
Q.U.B.E. 2 is one of those games that occasionally requires some time away in order for you to see it through to conclusion. Whilst this can be said for many a game, it is never more true than with this blocky masterpiece, and stepping back to rest your eyes from the squares is always helpful. The problem is the knowledge that each and every test is entirely doable, and the fact that the next one may just be even more addictive, will have you dragged back in before you know it.
Whilst the audio is sparse, it keeps with what is needed in Q.U.B.E. 2 brilliantly, and when teamed with a cracking graphic design that has clearly had a huge amount of love thrust into it, a story that is told and narrated at a perfect pace, and not so much as a single glitch, hiccup or drop of lag at any time, anyone who is in need of a new thought-provoking puzzler will find that this is a game that delivers in huge quantities. It would be great to have more of a reason to head back in for a second and third playthrough, but Toxic Games need to be applauded for taking the time to create such a wonderful experience.