Valve shook up the puzzle genre with the critically acclaimed Portal and its even better sequel Portal 2. With that precedent set, Toxic Games did their homework in an effort to capture a similar feel with their literally out-of-this-world puzzle-title, Q.U.B.E Director’s Cut. With this newly-released version, the game has finally made its way to the Wii U. With a new-story elements and various other improvements, how does this interstellar brain-twister hold up?
As soon as I launched the game, I was immediately reminded of Portal. The atmosphere is scarily similar; being the sole inhabitant being a seemingly vast world, with a seemingly dark aura coasting along in the background.
While Valve’s adventure had you in an underground super-laboratory, Q.U.B.E has you stranded in a giant, highly complex space weapon that’s en-route to crash into the Earth. You’ve lost contact with your crew back home, with your only connection being a single other astronaut, Commander Novak, who’s operating the International Space Station. To add to the sense of loneliness, she can talk to you only when she’s on the near side of the planet. With that, you’re own your own, with the only thing to help you being the power of your mind.
The weapon is set-up like a giant bomb that you have to diffuse. It’s not the usual, ‘cut the red/blue wire’ kind of situation — more like, progress through each level to gradually destroy it. While Portal had you shooting blue or orange portals around a room, Q.U.B.E uses different colored boxes. Your space suit is special, being able to manipulate each box with the suit’s high-tech gloves. Each box has unique characteristics. For instance, red boxes simply extend and protrude in increments, while blue boxes act as springs. Just like the portals, you must use each colored-box in tandem with each other to solve the puzzles and get to the next area.
The early puzzles were rather simple, and serve as a good tutorial-esque method to get your mind in motion. By the 4th area though, things began to get more and more challenging,
As the game progresses, more objects will be introduced. For instance, there’s one puzzle that requires you to use the boxes to fix a broken pathway in order to guide a ball into the goal, which opens the access to the following area. It’s little things like this which add to the overall depth of the game, and makes you think differently. Even so, while the core gameplay elements are great, I can’t help but feel that Q.U.B.E is missing something on the Wii U.
Right off the bat, the game doesn’t take any extra advantage of the hardware’s gameplay or processing capabilities. The visuals are in place, but the textures aren’t anything to fawn over. Seeing that it’s not a relatively busy title, added to the fact it’s using the Unreal Engine, I was expecting to be at least a little impressed. It’s not an ugly game, but it does lack the flare of other eShop titles such as Trine. In addition, it doesn’t even have any anti-aliasing, which did make the edges rather jagged. While not a huge con, it is noticeable.
Seeing that the GamePad’s capabilities have already been displayed on a number of occasions, I was also hoping that Toxic Games would’ve made some real use of it. However, this was not the case. Being a first-person game, it would’ve been nice if it used the GamePad’s gyro-controls to manipulate the camera, giving it the feel of a mouse. Even using the touchscreen would’ve been nice. Unfortunately, Q.U.B.E offers none of this, as the GamePad merely mirrors the TV display.
As far as the sound goes, there are some relatively nice music pieces, but none of it is anything special. Even so, it does add to the gritty, vacuum-like atmosphere of the surrounding area. Commander Novak’s voice actress is really good, however, it still pales in comparison to Ellen McClain’s performance of Portal’s GlaDOS.
In the end, Q.U.B.E Director’s Cut does have some rather apparent flaws, but as a puzzle-game, it sticks to its guns. The difficulty gradually increases in a natural motion as you progress through each area. However, the later puzzles will definitely do a number on your mind.
For the fans of puzzle games, then this is definitely one that will keep you entertained. For those adventure folks though, you may want to look elsewhere. Q.U.B.E’s atmosphere doesn’t really change. From beginning to end, it feels like a lonely void. While the situation is dire, it never felt like you were truly in any danger; a rather steep contrast from the Portal titles. If you’re a fan of that series, then there’s a chance that you won’t be all that impressed with this. As a Wii U game, it doesn’t make much use of the system which is unfortunate, however, it runs rather well, so you’ll be able to play without a worry.
Q.U.B.E is by no means a bad game, just a flawed one. It has some neat ideas and a good design that shoots for the stars, however the overall execution falls short and feels more like a shot to the moon.