Let me just get this out of the way since the comparison is inevitable: The first person puzzle game Q.U.B.E. will immediately remind you of Portal. They’re both set in stark environments with ambient sounds and a severe sense of isolation, all while you’re making your way through a facility with a series of tests to challenge your sense of problem solving. While Q.U.B.E. might not be the classic that Portal turned out to be, it still holds its own.
Q.U.B.E. stands for “Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion.” All the surfaces are made up of mostly white blocks but a few appear as bright colors to indicate that you can interact with them using your hands. Your left hand will pull a block out while the right pushes it back in. Different color blocks have different properties, naturally. Red blocks are the most basic, and can be pulled straight out up to three spaces. Yellow blocks come in threes and expand in an ascending or descending stair or pyramid pattern depending on which of the three you activate. Other blocks act as magnets, spring boards or have ability to turn sections of the room 90 degrees one way or the other. In each room you have to figure out how to manipulate the blocks to allow you to reach the exit.
The stark setting and moody soundscape immediately pull you in. Very little attention paid to setting up any kind of story, though a threadbare plot very slowly reveals itself it’s real just window dressing to the real star of the show here: the puzzles. Q.U.B.E. does a great job of letting you figure out the rules of its world on your own without any real guidance. The first couple levels don’t provide much challenge, but they do make you pause to think about the solution. The lack of guidance makes figuring out the solution all the more satisfying.
When Q.U.B.E. decides to ramp up the difficulty, it gets real hard, real quick. The solutions take a good amount of experimenting and some fighting with your own ability to juggle many elements at once. Of course, if you’re someone who doesn’t find much challenge with puzzle games you’ll probably still be fine here. Me? They have the tendency to confound me for great stretches of time but usually the answer comes to me when I’m doing other things.
Q.U.B.E. makes the most of its simple elements. Despite how stark the color palette is the game looks fantastic. Nice lighting effects come into play throughout the game and it runs as smooth as you’d want any game to run. While Q.U.B.E. doesn’t necessarily come close to being as memorable as Portal in the story department, that I can confidently compare the two games at all in a positive light is a pretty big compliment.