Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Quick Review of Q.U.B.E.

Dear game makers, please make more games that start with the letter Q so I can keep recycling this title setup.

Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) is a first-person puzzle game that borrows heavily from the Portal aesthetic of clean white walls and playing your way through tutorials disguised as spatial puzzles right until the end. Instead of the famous portal gun, you're now given fancy gloves that can manipulate blocks on the walls around you. These blocks are color-coded so you know exactly what they do. For example, red blocks can be pulled straight out of the walls (up to three units long), while yellow blocks come in clusters of three that must all be pulled out at once, but at different lengths (making a staircase shape). Using these blocks, you've got to move objects around the rooms and climb your way to the next level.

The above is a bit of an oversimplification of the puzzles in Q.U.B.E. Really, they're quite complex, in that Portal sort of way where you have the tools, but you have to figure out new ways to use them, particularly as new elements are introduced (balls that have to be filtered into different holes, cubes that have to be positioned correctly to redirect beams of light). The mix of puzzles is quite satisfying, save for one annoying section of puzzles done in the dark, as the darkness doesn't add anything but unnecessary difficulty.

The story, on the other hand, is far from Portalesque. In fact, as much as the game tries to gesture at a story being there, I just can't find it. You wake up in a room, just like Portal, but you don't have the benefit of GLaDOS to give you the basic instructions as you go. Perhaps the game assumes that everyone is familiar with Portal, and that the clean white walls instantly signals your goal is to escape from whatever facility you're in. This is, in this case, true, but even after having completed the game, I don't feel satisfied that I've accomplished anything more than solving the puzzles and getting to the next room umpteen times.

At this point, I should throw in that I'm a bit bitter about this game, as I worked my way through much of the game pretty quickly, but upon resuming one day, the game would only crash when I tried to load my save file. It took a while for the developers to fix this issue, and when the patch finally came, it turned out that I was stuck right before the final puzzle in the game. I lost a hearty chunk of love for this game right then, having to wait for an unsatisfying conclusion. It's taken me a couple of weeks since that patch to start writing this post.

Despite the lacking story and the glitch I had to deal with, the puzzles more than carry this game. Is it enough to justify a $15 price tag? Absolutely not, but considering it's an indie start-up title, it's forgiveable. I'd personally recommend waiting for a good enough sale to grab it, but whatever you do, please be sure to grab it at some point in time and play it if only for the puzzles alone. If you loved the progressing spacial puzzles of Portal, Q.U.B.E. will feel right at home for you.

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