Q.U.B.E (or Quick Understand of Block Extrusion if you like) Director’s Cut has been a long way coming to the Wii U. The original version was released for PC all the way back in late 2011. This updated version has since been released on the other major consoles with the Wii U finally catching up.
Q.U.B.E is essentially a first-person physics-based puzzle game. When you see those words, what series instantly comes to mind? Portal, of course. And it turns out that Q.U.B.E is heavily inspired by the critically acclaimed series. From the art-style to the narrative to the gameplay, Toxic Games have taken Portal and put their own spin on it.
The game begins as you wake up in a sterile environment with no memory. You have acquired two gloves that have the special power to manipulate various coloured blocks that litter your environment. You soon begin to receive messages from a woman orbiting around your location in a space station who attempts to encourage you on your way.
The story is fairly simple but at times it worryingly follows the original Portal a little too closely. It follows the same kind of premise with its intrigue and development and once the climax of the story came within reach I was really worried. However there is a nice final twist to uncover and even until the very end I was still guessing at to what was really going on.
The story is told well and narrated from two sides. The voice work is well done by the two actors and both deliver their lines appropriately. Apparently the original version of Q.U.B.E was without any story, which I find hard to believe because it fits perfectly and is well paced.
The majority of the game is based around using your shiny new gloves to control the aforementioned coloured blocks. Each colour has its own unique trait that you can use to help you progress though the environments. Red blocks which can be pulled out up to three blocks high, blue blocks which can be used as a springboard to catapult you to great heights, yellow blocks which come in threes and extrude in a stairs like fashion, green blocks which can be pushed around by the others and purple which can rotate the environment.
The game starts off allowing you to learn their traits individually, but the majority of time you will be using everyone of them in conjunction with each other to solve room sized puzzles.
Q.U.B.E doesn’t like to dwell on one idea too long. Each area, or each puzzle will often incorporate something new to tackle. Aside from using blocks, you will also face puzzles using gravity, directing energy beams and directing balls into holes. The majority of puzzles work well and are fun to solve. I must however share my “meh” feeling for the gravity sections. These are the ones that felt more of a chore to solve than anything else. It can be frustrating to do what you want to do with them, even if you know exactly what you need to do. The finicky-ness of the physics and slight clunky-ness of controls make it part of the experience worth forgetting. Thankfully it only encompasses a small part of the game.
The rest of the puzzles vary from simple to mind stumping on occasion and there’s a great satisfaction whenever one is solved, especially on those you’ve been scratching your head at for more than a few minutes. Even if at times you feel like you’ve been here before Q.U.B.E can be very, very clever with its puzzles.
There’re even secret challenge rooms to find amongst the levels if you fancy a real challenge. I honestly struggled with most of them.
Seeing the credits took me just under 5 hours. This however included the time the game was paused as a went to make lunch, make a coffee, take a phone call from the missus. I’d say it would be closer to around 4 hours or under for an uninterrupted play through, depending on how stumped you get.
The Director’s Cut version also boasts a time trial mode dubbed Against the Qlock (not sure they can run with this Q for a C any longer, do they think they’re Mortal Kombat?). Here there are pre-set courses for you to get the fastest time you can and earn medals to unlock more courses. Interestingly, you can pick up power ups along the way that can do various things such as decrease your time and speed you up. For those who like time trial runs from games such as Mirror’s Edge, this is perfect for you.
Visually the game looks fairly decent for a downloadable title from a small development team. Everything is minimalistic and sterile with cube shapes everywhere. Outside of the coloured blocks, practically everything else is a shade of grey. I understand why they chose this approach, but I would have really liked to have a splash of colour here and there.
A great visual flair, however, is when the lights go off and all that’s left are the illuminated colour blocks. The bold colours really strike off the screen beautifully.
While I feel the development team have done a good job overall, there are a few polish issues here and there that show the game’s small origins. There are many issues with sound clips not playing, the slight awkward view sensitivity (with no option to adjust) and lack of subtitles at least that I am aware of. As for the Wii U’s gamepad, disappointingly its only use is for off TV play.
The game’s soundtrack is really nice, mostly using chilled out minimalistic electronic beats. It fits the game perfectly and adds to the enigmatic atmosphere of the locations. Sadly I can’t provide any examples in music corner as I can’t find any to present.
Overall, the game is nice tribute to Portal. While it sometimes it feels uncomfortably close to the Valve masterpieces, it is still has enough to separate it into its own thing. The puzzles are clever and for the majority, fun to solve. And for a puzzle game that’s probably the highest praise you can give.
- Clever puzzles
- Variety in gameplay elements
- Music and voice work
- Lack of polish
- Story feels so familiar
Game provided by publisher