Xbox One, PS4, PC
March 14, 2018
Trapped Nerve Games
First-person puzzle games have always been an odd favourite of mine. It’s not a very dense genre of games although it is a genre that forces you to think in a slightly different way. These games demand that you have the spacial awareness skills to be able to take in everything around you and figure out how one element may interact with another. Naturally when people think of first-person puzzle games they think of the Portal series, although it’s also important to realise that many games have successfully paved their own path within this niche, and that certainly includes Q.U.B.E. 2.
You play as Amelia Cross, an archaeologist who wakes inside an alien structure with no memory of what happened to put her here. A stranger contacts you via radio to help get you out alive, make your way to the top of the structure, and save humanity. It’s a very grandiose science-fiction narrative that would be hard to cover further without moving into spoiler territory. Although it’s important to note that the game doesn’t forgo narrative and exposition. In fact it essentially rewrites everything and ignores the proceedings of the first game, which was much more narrative light.
With the help of a distance voice that cuts in and out you begin to move from one chamber to the next, solving puzzles as you go. Every puzzle revolves around how you can interact with the world using the advanced technology strapped to your hands. You can place spring pads, you can conjure cubes, and you can pull rectangles out of walls. Add to this an array of environmental effects you can interact with including moving walls/blocks, fans, oil, fire and magnetism, and suddenly you begin to realise just how complex the systems can become.
As a puzzle game Q.U.B.E. 2 most certainly succeeds. It manages to build on what initially feels like basic systems in some very creative ways. It manages to challenge you just enough so that you feel like a genius for solving a difficult puzzle but don’t feel like a dumbass for getting stuck. It also guides the player with a natural difficulty incline where you master one system before moving on to the next.
“…the game’s difficulty was grounded entirely within spacial reasoning and problem solving.”
Control wise things are pretty intuitive. Switching between your different powers is simple and using those powers to interact with the world is functional. I did occasionally confuse myself as to what surface I spawned what cube or which button does what action although I don’t hold the game solely accountable for that. There is some light platforming but the game also does a pretty good job of correcting any imperfections and forgiving any slight alignment errors. This means that nothing felt difficult to accomplish mechanically, the game’s difficulty was grounded entirely within spacial reasoning and problem solving.
I even found the game’s length and diversity of puzzles to be surprising. A few times I was sure I was coming up to the end of the game only to discover there was more content to unravel. The size and scope of this game was much larger than I expected and for the most part this was a pleasant surprise. I did occasionally feel like the game dragged on, especially when you were required to head to multiple rooms to power an alien computer. It wasn’t so much that the game overstayed its welcome, more that there were times with very little meaningful moments of dialogue to break up the routine of puzzle after puzzle. There’s a reason Portal had GLaDOS inject her humour and sarcasm into almost every chamber of the game, it’s because without that constant interruption things can begin feeling clinical and repetitive.
I think what will make Q.U.B.E. 2 stand out to a lot of people is that it has a quality about it that is very impressive from such a small studio. The game looks and sounds stunning, the puzzles are well designed, and it even has a decent narrative to tie everything together. Puzzle fans, this may be the game you’re looking for.
- Impressive visuals and sounds
- Great puzzle design with a natural difficulty incline and depth to what initially feels like a simple system
- Challenges a player's cognitive prowess, not their mechanical ability
- Can get clinical and repetitive when the dialogue slows down
- Some slight control confusion
Q.U.B.E. 2 really stepped up the game when compared to the original release. As far as sequels are concerned, this one is an absolute winner. The game may not quite live up to the standards of similar titles, although it doesn’t have to in order to be a game worth playing. Strap on your gloves and begin manipulating those cubes, because there is a game here any puzzle fan will want to experience.