|Min OS X: 10.6|
Mac OS X: 10.6.3 | CPU: 1.6 GHz Intel | RAM: 2 GB | HD Space: 1 GB | Graphics: Any ATI, Any NVIDIA, Intel HD Graphics 4000
Classic puzzle games have always been a little inaccessible for me over the years. I could only name a couple that I have persisted with to the end. Peggle is one and the other is Portal. The clever story line combined with the great graphics and tight simple mechanics made both Peggle and Portal superb. I haven’t quite finished the sequel to Portal yet, but that Valve title in particular really set the new benchmark for puzzle games. This first person style puzzle game was something that worked really well, and it was only a matter of time until other developers implemented the same concept into their games. Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) from KISS is one example, and may seem like a complete rip-off of Portal. While that criticism is deserved for some elements, there is quite a large chunk which has evolved from Valve’s title. The question is then, can it build upon the ideas made by Valve and create a meaningful game for us Mac users to play?
When you begin the game for the first time you are placed in the perspective of an unknown protagonist who awakens in a room textured by an array of white cubes. The character then stands up and you are given control for the rest of the game. After some trial and error you realize Q.U.B.E requires you to navigate each level by manipulating coloured cubes in the environment. Very much in the style of Portal the lack of cut scenes removes the temptation for the developers to create an on-rails storyline that we’ve seen before. However, unlike Portal, there aren't any obvious clues (to my knowledge) as to why the protagonist is in these chambers.
So, if there is a very minimalistic story for the player to uncover, what reward is there for playing? The answer to that lies right in front of us. The gameplay.
Besides the opening sequence of standing up it is very clear that Q.U.B.E. is focused on the gameplay. From the little animation of the commanding hand to the varied environments that the player will encounter it is evident that the developers spent a great deal of time creating an accessible puzzle title.
As you progress through the levels you are introduced to a number of different coloured or symbol covered tiles which perform different actions. These actions can range from the very simple to the very complex. For example, a simple action results from activating the red tile. When your character activates this tile it extends out at three different lengths horizontally or vertically depending on where the tile is. More complex actions would be the arrows which rotate the entire room. This is complicated further with some levels containing balls which have to be navigated through a room in order to pass through a goal. And, if you thought that was complicated, you even have to change the colour of the ball (and mix colours to have the right colour) to get it in the correct goal. Oh, and the lights go off in later levels.
This may all appear to be overwhelming to the casual puzzle player that I am, but for some reason when I look back at my time playing it, I do not remember feeling at all overwhelmed. The reason for this I believe lies in the simplistic and gradual introduction of each element to the player. By the time you reach the dark levels it is quite a shock, but with all the skills that you have learned throughout the previous few hours you feel more than capable of conquering them. It is this feeling that gave me the confidence to persist through Q.U.B.E. unlike any other pure puzzle game out there. If you have any fear of these sorts of games I can assure you if I could make it through you could too.
There were, however, a few issues I still had with the game. For one, the ball puzzles do have a slight problem with the physics. When gamers are used to the near realistic physics in games, it is difficult to get away with a sub-par experience. The inertia that the ball would have in reality is very different to how it is in the game. This results in the ball moving in an unnatural manner and making it difficult in an unnecessary way.
Another annoyance that I came across was the platforming element in the game. There is a fair portion of Q.U.B.E. in which the player must complete a puzzle then climb and jump over the pathway they have constructed to complete the goal. When this occurs the jumping mechanic that the player has the ability to use is difficult to handle. This, in combination with the weak (as opposed to tight) movement controls, makes it difficult to scale the puzzle that you have just solved.
The sound and graphics might be considered very average, but eye candy is not the point of this game. The point lies purely in the gameplay. If this aspect isn’t good then no amount of quality sound and graphics could make up for it. But thankfully, besides the few drawbacks I mentioned previously, the game still holds up as a solid and fun experience. Never before would I choose a puzzle game, but the mechanics were solid enough and challenging enough to keep me coming back for more.
• Interesting combination of gameplay mechanics
• Simple Gameplay
• Great integration with Mac OS X (ie Notification Centre)
• Questionable tightness of controls
• Weak controls