Q.U.B.E. 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Sam Turner 14.03.2018

Review for Q.U.B.E. 2 on PlayStation 4

In the mysterious world of the Q.U.B.E. things are not what they appear. At first glance it is very much an exercise in iteration, borrowing heavily as it does from both Portal and Portal 2. However, it has been over a decade since Valve brought the highly acclaimed puzzler out, so it seems only right that the world is being given more of what it wants. Once again, a protagonist is subjected to numerous rooms with challenges of increasing difficulty. Once again, there's a strange ever-present eye watching all they do, but even though it seems like an exercise in imitation, Q.U.B.E. 2 does just enough to be mentioned in the same positive breath as Portal.

Q.U.B.E. 2 will be familiar to most, even if this is the first time encountering the game. First of all, it's a sequel to a very promising and high profile I.P. and second of all it is a title that is not shy of wearing its inspirations on its sleeve. Decked from head to toe in the same design philosophy that the Portal titles wore so well, Q.U.B.E. 2 feels largely similar to the Valve series. However, this should not diminish any pressing need to play, especially if you played the first outing.

Of all the things that Q.U.B.E. 2 accomplishes so well, one glaring aspect is the significant leap in the development and direction that this has gone through, six years after the original. So gargantuan is the rise in both the graphical fidelity and design that it makes the original look like it was created with My First Room Puzzler. What is so crucial about this sea change in aesthetics is that the world feels so much more tangible and tactile, which is crucial when effectively locked in a room for an undetermined period of time.

Screenshot for Q.U.B.E. 2 on PlayStation 4

As the action moves from room to room, the topography of this world has weight and age to it. It's no coincidence that the protagonist is an archaeologist. The graphical design encourages discovery of place and makes exploration through each of the puzzles a delight for the eyes. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a conundrum in an ugly and lifeless room and Q.U.B.E. 2 makes traversing this riddle a delight.

It feels cheap to carry on comparing Q.U.B.E. 2 to its gaming lineage but the similarities are so stark that there is simply no avoiding it. Of the eleven chapters that slowly ratchet up the complexity in the size and scale of the puzzles, the actual mechanics are simple and ride a delicate learning curve.

Each new power that the titular 'Amelia Cross' comes across, is introduced slowly and over a series of stages before being fully incorporated with the other mechanics learnt so far. Again, it's an approach to puzzle design that has been used before, but if isn't broke then don't fix it. What is interesting in Q.U.B.E. 2 is that the variety of options available are actually rather limiting, meaning that each room is a true exercise in logical reasoning rather than the open playground that Portal felt like.

Screenshot for Q.U.B.E. 2 on PlayStation 4

From creating new cubes, raising cuboids out of the ground, or using the few select areas that the powers are effective to bounce between sections of the room, there is realistically little the player can do in each location. It's an intriguing design choice that certainly plays to the strengths of the game. The goal here is not to see how the tools can open up the space to move around a puzzle, but instead to examine the limitations and act accordingly to unlock the mystery.

It's a logistical approach to problem-solving but it means that it doesn't have to rely on an intrusive hint system or worry about overly directing people towards what to do. Instead, because the rules of how the cubes interact within the world are so stringent and restrictive, if someone finds what will definitely work and definitely won't, then a solution can be found.

At times it's frustrating to have such a negative approach to solving a puzzle. Q.U.B.E. 2 doesn't encourage play, it instead relies on a strict understanding of how everything operates. At times it feels like it was designed as a board game before being deployed in the virtual world. This is by no means undesirable, especially if you take particular joy in spending time breaking down mechanics, picking the locks, and reaching logistical conclusions.

Screenshot for Q.U.B.E. 2 on PlayStation 4

Through all its interesting decisions of rules, interaction and art direction, there is plenty that brings Q.U.B.E. 2 back down to Earth. The unfolding narrative, though wrapped up in mystery, unfurls to be nothing but layers of science fiction tropes that offer up an unsatisfying ending, which feels like a lasagne but without the beef and seasoning. Also, the sound design is particularly uninviting and harsh. Take the doors, for example, that open and close with such an unappealing clatter that over the five hours or so of the game's run time, you will be forgiven for gritting teeth each time Amelia moves from room to room. Cubes within the Q.U.B.E. also carry with them the most plain and basic sounds, which goes against so much of the art direction included.

These missteps do such a disservice to the poise and grace within the world of Q.U.B.E. 2. The sound design of manipulating cubes makes the whole process feel so clumsy at times and also further makes the player feel like a cog in a noisy and grating machine, rather than a character on a mission of discovery. Crucially, though, the heart of Q.U.B.E. 2 is in the right place, and the gentle learning curve, the balanced deployment of mechanics, and the range of puzzles on offer will please even the most devout fan of the genre.

Screenshot for Q.U.B.E. 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There is no doubt that Q.U.B.E. 2 owes such a debt to a rich past, and with such a strong design direction and philosophy there is plenty to enjoy inside this geometric puzzler. Where Q.U.B.E. 2 really succeeds is reminding the player what is great about being locked in a room alone with a puzzle. It's a shame that the execution doesn't spread across all the areas, but there is certainly enough to enjoy and cherish in this gratifying design.

Developer

Toxic

Publisher

Trapped Nerve Games

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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