Awaking in a mystery spaceship seems all the rage at the moment. In fact, it’s such a obsession that I could reel off a number of recent titles that have used the same style of story in order to help sell. Q.U.B.E. however is different. You don’t have to go blasting your way to freedom, you don’t have to go jumping and vaulting your way to glory and you don’t have to go on an endless run in order to escape. Q.U.B.E. sees you manipulating blocks to your own gain. Tons of blocks and tons of manipulation in fact!
Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut sees you placed on a mysterious ship, with only your special high tech gloves and a couple of unexplainable voices for company. With a quick scan of the area, you’ll need to move around the blocky areas that you frequent, powering up blocks in such a way so you can reach your goal. Starting off with some of the most ridiculously easy puzzles I’ve ever seen, initializing spring blocks or vertical steps with your trigger buttons will ensure you race through the first three of the seven areas in no time at all. But then, it starts to get tricky and at times, a little baffling.
The usual red, yellow, blue and green blocks that allow you to escape the areas are joined by the addition of rotation, magnetism and eventually complete and utter darkness. The basic premise stays the same throughout – that of moving stuff around, extruding and depressing boxes as you go, just enough to enable you to reach the end goal. Sometimes you’ll have a ball that needs to be managed enough to help it open your gateway to freedom, and this again brings a whole new dimension of play. The level of difficulty brought about by these new, and in some ways improved, additions ensure that even when you think you are flying through the game, nearing completion, you’ll eventually find a good couple of hours left in it. It isn’t perfect however and there are one too many times when the speed and precision needed to hit the correct block at the exact time is just a little too tricky to comprehend. For the most part, things work very well indeed with a smooth fluid experience being high on Toxic and Grip Games’ agenda.
The inclusion of the new Against the Qlock time trial mode does however feel like a bit of an add-on – and a poor one at that. Whilst the main story is engaging and just taxing enough to push you to the verge of frustration before everything clicks into place, the speed running needed in Qlock just doesn’t come off as intended. This is down to nothing more than the fact that the placing, removing and manipulating of blocks is a slow process with precision being key, which in turn doesn’t translate well into the speed running way of life. By all means it’s good for a quick blast, giving you the chance to earn bronze, silver or gold medals in order to unlock further puzzles, but sticking the leaderboards in a completely different section of the game is a strange decision. Whilst it’s lovely to be able to see how many times I’ve attempted a certain speed run and how many of the bonus pickups I’ve managed to luckily grab – and believe me, when you’re trying to do something quickly there is a huge deal of luck involved, all I really want to know is how I’m comparing against the best runners in the world. It’s disappointing to see the leaderboards for each Against The Qlock trial shoved away into a hidden corner.
Q.U.B.E. is however a colourful delight with well defined visuals and puzzles to eventually die for. The audio is well worked and plays a vital part in proceedings as not only does a strange mysterious and emotive story begin to unfold, but you’ll need to listen out for audio clues as you attempt to move enough blocks to help you succeed. That is no more true than in those puzzles that require you to act quickly, with diverse interactions over the course of a few seconds, and it’s these that get the pace moving from slow and methodical, to somewhat fast and frenetic. With multiple attempts made available, and the odd helpful reset button in place on the trickier stages, you should find yourself still going some as you edge on towards the six hour mark. Even more if the puzzle genre isn’t normally your thing.
Overall though, and if you’re after a puzzle game that is completely doable without leaving you with the need to run to the first Youtube playthrough you can find, then Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut is the one for you. Simalarly, if you’re after a story that sees you trying to escape a mysterious ship, not knowing which way to turn from one minute to another, then Q.U.B.E is right up there again.
Not that the story matters one jot! It’s all about the superbly slick brain-twisting gameplay that entices us in for more.