Q.U.B.E. 2 is a smart, satisfying but short first person puzzle game. The Finger Guns Review;
7 years ago, a small UK based indie studio called Toxic Games released a first person puzzle game that the team had started as a university project. That game was called Q.U.B.E.. Praised for its smart puzzle mechanics and Portal-esque aesthetic, the game became something of a sleeper hit. 3 years later, a “Director’s Cut” of Q.U.B.E. was released which addressed the game’s biggest criticism – it’s lack of plot – by adding an interesting story about boarding an alien craft that’s on a collision course for Earth and attempting to stop it. This leads us nicely to the sequel – Q.U.B.E. 2 – which is releasing on March 13th (today!) for PC, Xbox One and PS4.
The premise; You play the role of Ameila Cross, an archaeologist who awakes on a strange alien planet with no memory of how she got there. Wearing a specialised suit which allows her to manipulate the environment around her, she begins to explore until she is contacted by someone called Emma who attempts to guide her through her various rooms while unravelling the mystery of where she is, why she’s there and the very reason for the existence of the Q.U.B.E.. It’s an intriguing plot that’s self-contained which means that you won’t have needed to complete the Director’s Cut version of the original to understand what is going on but offers plenty of subtle nods to the first game for returning fans. The plot is played out through dialogue between Amelia and 2 other characters which is implemented very astutely, only ever in areas when you’re not having to solve difficult puzzles (like in long corridors or between puzzle rooms) meaning you can give the narrative your full, undivided attention.
Balancing the difficulty in puzzle games can be tricky business but is something Q.U.B.E. 2 does very well. Amelia’s special suit allows her to imbue certain blocks of the Q.U.B.E. with 3 special qualities – a blue bounce pad that acts like a spring board, a “detach” function which creates a green cube when activated and an orange extraction function which creates a platform from the location. These abilities are introduced one by one, easing them in gently with simple physics based puzzles before they’re used in conjunction with one another in increasingly elaborate tests. On top of the cube altering antics, the game adds doors which have to either be hit with blocks at speed or be burnt, oil which allows things to glide free of friction and can be set on fire, magnets which work far better here than they did in the first game, switches, triggered hinges, moveable platforms and spheres which can be triggered from specific spawners. Each of these mechanics combine with one another, introduced one at a time before becoming part of the lattice of puzzle elements you have to deal with. What’s most impressive about Q.U.B.E. 2’s head scratchers is that they’ve never got a solution that’s obscure enough to be frustrating and are structured in a way which makes it immediately apparent if you’re doing something wrong. It’s a game that relies on some trial and error and environmental awareness which, with a little forethought, means they’re fun rather than aggravating. There seems to have been a concerted effort with Q.U.B.E. 2 to make the puzzles enjoyable and satisfying rather than annoyingly difficult with specific elements of each mechanic (like pressing square to remove an effect applied to a block from distance) that increase the quality of life for this game, taking out the onerousness of the trial and error.
The plot to Q.U.B.E. 2 does a decent job of tying itself to the puzzles and mechanics themselves. The game is structured in a way that each room contains a puzzle and after solving them, you’re treated to a new nugget of information that unveils more of the mystery. The game probably goes a little too out of the way at times to explain why the puzzle elements to the game exist at all but by the time the credits roll, the story and game play become symbiotic. It’s an enjoyable tale which isn’t breaking new ground but is a clever twist on the narrative from the original Q.U.B.E. game.
Aesthetically, Q.U.B.E. 2 is gorgeous. While it incorporates the sterile, monochromatic environments from the first game, it’s in a much more organic way this time around. The blocky, lateral structures are often broken and disjointed by trees, pipes and vines and, in the middle third, offer up an almost Aztec theme with plants, moss and flowers. While it’s not the most detailed of games, it’s certainly making the most of the art style and it’s beautiful in its own way. It also runs flawlessly too – I didn’t notice a single dropped frame, singe screen tear or stutter during my 5 hours, 23 minutes with the game.
And that’s the biggest drawback with Q.U.B.E. 2. It’s short. I clocked in at just under 5 and a half hours and that was at a leisurely pace. Toxic Games have obviously gone for quality over quantity here and while I appreciate that it values the players time without padding out the experience with filler, it’s still a bit of a shock when you reach the end and there are no more puzzles to solve.
So QUBE 2 is a smart, deeply satisfying puzzle game that makes you feel like a genius at times. It has a well thought out and implemented plot too. It’s just a shame that it’s so short lived, leaving you begging for more when the credits roll.
Q.U.B.E. 2 is launching on the PS4 (review version on Base PS4), Xbox One and PC on the 14th of Match, 2018.
Developer: Toxic Games
Publsiher: Trapped Nerve Games
Disclaimer: In order to review this game, we received a review code from the publishers. Please see out review policy for more information.