Q.U.B.E. was a surprise hit back when it was released for the Xbox One, effortlessly merging together innovative puzzles and a solid well rounded plot. It comes as no surprise that its sequel, fittingly titled Q.U.B.E. 2, has a lot of weight resting on its shoulders. In terms of scope, going from the location alone, Q.U.B.E. 2 is bigger, more open, and arguably better than its predecessor, but it suffers with a few issues along the way. The game throws players into the role of Amelia Cross, an archaeologist that finds herself at the mercy of a strange ancient alien landscape. With no memory of how or why she is here, Amelia, along with the help of Commander Emma Sutcliffe, work in unity to traverse this complex and fascinating alien structure.
I’ll give the game its credit, Q.U.B.E. 2 certainly knows how to intrigue its audience. Not only did I find myself initially overwhelmed upon entering nearly each and every new area, but I was constantly absorbed by its design. Much like the first game, Amelia wakes up wearing a strange suit that has the ability to manipulate the interior structure. This is precisely how the several mind-boggling puzzles will be solved throughout. Q.U.B.E. 2 offers up a short and informative tutorial that feeds you into the experience and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Using your suit’s gloves, you soon find that you can rearrange parts of the environment to make further progression.
Within this giant alien structure, white glowing panels can be used to summon different objects, but this doesn’t come without its own set of rules and physics. For example, Amelia can summon orange colored blocks that may help you to reach new heights, or green colored cubes that can be used to smash open a new doorway. The kicker here is that only one mechanic can be functional on the same panel at any given time. So, you wont be able to summon orange blocks and then green cubes from the same panel, as the first mechanic will be cancelled out. These panels, however, can indeed be toyed with in a range of different ways, which makes for some very interesting puzzles.
Starting out, Amelia only has access to the orange mechanic. This can withdraw orange blocks from the panels, which are typically used as elevators, wind blocks, and object stoppers. Before long, Amelia will have access to the blue mechanic, which turns a panel into a bounce pad. Then comes the aforementioned green mechanic, which allows Amelia to pull a single green cube from the panels. It all sounds very basic on paper, but the execution is far more intricate. Q.U.B.E. 2 only gets more difficult as you proceed, but the difficulty curve is implemented very well. The game constantly throws new functionalities at you, be it through the manipulation gloves, or via the environment itself.
To give you an idea as to how the game functions, I’ll describe one of the earlier puzzles. In order to power a machine, I needed to step on a large square plate. However, this plate would deactivate as soon as I stepped off it. Looking up, I could see one white panel directly above the plate, and two white panels (one on top of the other) to the right of the plate. The bottom panel on the right was slightly tilted, facing up to the single panel above the plate. To work this out, I pulled an orange block from the the panel above the plate, changed the tilted panel on the right to a blue bounce pad, and pulled a green cube from the panel above that. This allowed the green cube to fall on the bounce pad, hit the orange block – preventing it from otherwise disappearing off screen – and then land on the plate, allowing me to step off it without deactivation.
This is one of the easiest puzzles within, and believe me when I say, the talents driving Q.U.B.E. 2 know exactly how to craft some of the most difficult puzzles I’ve seen in a game. Later on, Amelia can use her gloves to elevate or even twist structures. This is where the game truly begins to test the might of your brainpower. Several times did I step into a room, witness switches that allowed me to alter the room’s layout, and then a plethora of panels, dotted around the room. I would sit there for 20 – 30 minutes wondering what the hell to do, attempting to process the genius design. It really is one hell of a mind twisting experience, but not so much so that it proves too taxing.
Irrespective as to how overwhelming the game wants you to believe it is, there’s typically only one way to solve each puzzle, meaning that some trial and error and forward thinking will almost always prevail. It pays off to sit back and look at the bigger picture. You can always see your goal, be it a machine to power-up or a door to open, you always know where you have to get to. It’s getting to it that’s the tricky part. As already mentioned, the game does a good job at feeding you the basics of play. However, when the game knows that you have a firm understanding as to how everything operates, it doesn’t hold back. Q.U.B.E. 2, more so towards the end of the game, will throw everything and its cat at you, all at once. Plates, magnet mechanics, panels, structural manipulation, fans, and so on and so forth, are not too difficult alone. However, when all of them combine to produce a gigantic puzzle, you certainly need to bring your thinking cap.
The story will also open up to you as you make more progress, and although I wont spoil what’s on offer, what I will say is that it remains equally as intriguing as its predecessor. Safe to say that if you enjoyed Q.U.B.E., you’ll enjoy Q.U.B.E. 2. The aim of the game typically has you moving from one room to the next, solving its problem, and then accessing an elevator to take you to your next task. In terms of traversal, it really is as simple as that. It’s a very easy game to play, if indeed much harder to work out. The controls remain fluid and precise throughout, making easy work of navigating both Amelia, and every intractable item you will come across. The story is further bolstered by some stellar voice acting, which really helps to deliver the overarching message.
Sadly, Q.U.B.E. 2 doesn’t come trouble free. Framerate issues persist, especially in select levels, such as Level 4. The framerate doesn’t spike that much that it derails the fun, but it does indeed break your concentration. Some texture issues also pop up, most notably in the edges of the environments. Again, this is a minor issue that doesn’t tend to interfere too much. Outside of these faults, there’s very little to drag this game down for. The visuals are clean, diverse, and inviting. Q.U.B.E. 2 takes its players to some wonderful environments, but I really wish that I would have seen more of the exterior, rather than spending most of my time in the interior. Still, when all is said and done, Toxic Games’ work here is remarkable, despite the few niggling issues.
Q.U.B.E. 2 is thought provoking, well designed, and intriguing. Unfortunately, however, issues with the framerate and some texture problems persist throughout. With that to the side, this is a wonderfully crafted puzzle adventure that maintains its innovation and unique concept from beginning to end.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.