Q.U.B.E. 2 review code provided by the publisher.
There exists a rather famous quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
Q.U.B.E. 2 embodies the essence of his idea wholesale, and presents players with a no-nonsense, straightforward approach to solving a myriad of convoluted puzzles with easy to grasp concepts.
The sequel to the cult smash hit Q.U.B.E. also takes this same approach to its storytelling, allowing you to catch a glimpse into this world and its inhabitants through a detailed environment and dialogue which may at first seem confusing, but hides a truly elaborate history about the origins of its universe that unravels with each and every block you extrude.
You will take on the role of archeologist Amelia Cross, a survivor of a crashed ship who awakens mysteriously in a room inside a monolithic alien structure.
Having nearly no memory of how she came to be in her position, she is contacted by another survivor, Emma Sutcliffe, who aims to help Amelia reach a beacon and any other survivors in order to teleport them off the alien vessel.
As Amelia, you find you’re equipped with strange gloves that are designed exclusively to manipulate the various building blocks of this cube-like fortress, allowing you to traverse the environment and power up generators.
This is, of course, the heart and soul of the entire game. You solve a puzzle, then are presented with more of the story through dialogue between Amelia, Emma, and others.
This may sound like a simple, or even boring way of presenting the game. However, beneath this simple veneer of puzzler and presentation lies a beautiful and complex creature, pulling at the fibers of your brain and forcing you to think in multiple dimensions.
I could practically feel the dopamine surging with each solved puzzle and snippet of story with which I was rewarded.
The gameplay itself is basic. There are white tiles, and you can place one of three different effects on them.
- A blue tile repels other objects and yourself, launching you or them across a room.
- A red tile extrudes a long “red” block.
- A green tile births a small green block, which can be moved by everything else except you.
That’s it, and aside from jumping your only other abilities are to manipulate floor switches by standing or placing something heavy on them (like a green block), or by putting special blue wall switches in your crosshair and activating them.
These will give many different effects, and are always indicated by icons showing what the result is, as they are all context sensitive.
Again, simplicity. With these few options the developers have weaved together an intricate system of puzzles that by their nature are not necessarily difficult to solve, but many times will have you slapping yourself upside the head once the most simple solution presents itself.
The pacing is executed perfectly, introducing you to one simple concept at a time. Place down a blue tile, now stand on it. See what that does? Great, here’s a red tile, now extrude it.
Calm and simple, Q.U.B.E. 2 lays the building blocks (pun absolutely intended) of its foundation and acts like a mentor, never holding your hand, but gently ushers you forward with one hand lightly on your back.
Rather than laughing when you stumble, it stands back and lets you work out the solution for yourself.
New concepts are introduced throughout the game, again building upon each lesson you have learned and giving you room to think about how to apply old tricks to new situations.
I eventually reached a point I could tell what combination of blocks will be utilized in a puzzle just based on how the tiles were laid out.
Many of the puzzles are entirely physics based, either rolling an iron ball or sliding a block in place. By some miracle of programming on the dev’s part, I never once had any weird physics glitch or even a jitter during these times.
In fact, the only glitch I ran into was falling through the floor one time, and the auto-saving was so dead on I was only set back to the beginning of the puzzle once I reloaded the save.
It never felt too easy, nor too frustratingly difficult, and clocking in at around 5 hours, there wasn’t enough time to get sick of the puzzles.
I was left wanting more, which worked very well because I immediately started a second playthrough and beat it again in half the time (you will want to do a second playthrough anyway because there are two endings to get).
The graphics themselves are also very simple, but rather than just barren and empty levels, which one might expect when surrounded by billions of cubes, you’ll see there is a complexity to its structure as well.
The texturing of each block and the superb lighting within each different environment shines forth, allowing you to feel the immersion within these alien surroundings. You’ll feel out of place, and truly begin to wonder what could have created it, and what your purpose within it is.
You’ll begin to ask more questions about its origins, and the conversations you’ll have will only shed a pinprick of light each time on the entirety of the truth, which is only then discovered after the final puzzle is solved, which will test all your abilities you’ve gained and everything you have learned.
I feel it would be a disservice to compare this in any way to the Portal series. However, the comparison is indeed apropos considering its partial inspiration for the first Q.U.B.E.
It does not have the witty or whimsical humor of Portal, nor is there a smartass and homicidal AI gunning for your life in Q.U.B.E 2. In fact there is no death at all, and no enemies are present for any sort of combat.
This in no way takes away from the game, and even though you’ll feel you are in a dangerous environment, and won’t want to take unnecessary risks, it all serves to heighten the unease you’ll feel as revelations are made about your situation, again adding to the immersion.
The sound design is simple, the music is subtle, and the voice acting is phenomenal. Emotions (and the lack thereof) are on full display from the get-go, and being the main source of delivery for the story, prove to be so important to draw you into this strange world.
I absolutely cannot recommend Q.U.B.E. 2 enough for any fan of games in the puzzle genre, or any gamers wishing to try out a narrative puzzle game for the first time.
Q.U.B.E. 2 is the best puzzle game the genre has seen since Portal 2, and while short, I hope many of you will enjoy it as much as I have.