Is imitation really the best form of flattery?
Looking at screenshots for Q.U.B.E it’s hard not to instantly think of Portal. The similarities are just there, – no shameless hiding or tweaking whatsoever. And while I want to cut the developers some slack as it’s their first game release, I still have to say that while Q.U.B.E is similar to Portal in many ways, it is not even half as fun as Valve’s creation.
When I first saw Q.U.B.E at E3, it did fascinate me somewhat. Here was a game that was made by a small group of developers, that was able to showcase a rather impressive looking piece of work on a rather humble bit of funding. While that statement still holds true, there’s still plenty that needs to be plugged into the game in order for it to become a game worth playing through. You start the game with your character waking up and lying down on a descending platform. Your surroundings don’t give you any clue about what has happened or where you are, and all you notice are the futuristic gloves that your character is wearing. As you walk forward you notice colored blocks in the level, and its these blocks that you need to manipulate in order to get through the game. Red blocks can be pulled out to a certain degree, yellow ones come in groups of thee, blue ones can be used to bounce off, and so forth. The game does an excellent job of slowly introducing players to the various block types before finally mixing the block types and introducing some rather quirky puzzles.
You will need to deftly master the various block types in order to progress, and while the initial levels are just a case of sliding out the right blocks, the later levels introduce laser-bending spheres and magnets, which not only makes things tricky but also fiendishly difficult at times. While you’d expect the magnets to actually behave like magnets, they often lead to very finicky control issues when trying to maneuver the blocks, simply because they don’t snap in place properly.
But really what disappointed me about Q.U.B.E was its complete lack of personality. While Portal has GLaDOS spewing her quirky comments to prevent the game from being monotonous, Q.U.B.E has no such luck and ends up being just one puzzle after another. You’re not really compelled to progress much through the game, unless you really are adamant on solving every single puzzle in the game. And even when you reach the very last puzzle and finish the game, there’s no sense of accomplishment or real achievement, as the ending scene unfolds much like Portal did. After all of the hellish puzzles and the effort you’ve gone through, any anticipation for a substantial reward will rapidly vanish, so prepare yourself.
Graphically the game does look quite crisp, showcasing some rather impressive geometric effects as walls slide and twist to reveal different areas. The lighting effects applied to the cubes in certain levels makes a start contrast to the usual clinical appearance of the game, though solving these illuminated puzzles successfully is another matter.
Q.U.B.E is a decent indie attempt, but its similarities to Valve’s masterpiece cannot be ignored, and it’s this constant comparison that will be its downfall. While the effort has to be applauded, at its most basic level Q.U.B.E exhibits very little to engage players, and as such won’t keep your attention for very long.