Saturday, 14 January 2012

Pure, Unadulterated Cognition: Q.U.B.E Review

From the Indie Developers Toxic Games spawns Q.U.B.E., a first-person physics and logic based puzzle game that has taken the gaming world by storm.

Q.U.B.E or Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion is a first-person puzzle game that takes a player through an unknown environment where the location is only revealed once the game is completed.

Players must solve logic and physics based puzzles utilising their gloves and the environment, which is filled with coloured cubes that must be manipulated to progress through each sector or room. Depending on how high your inductive reasoning aptitude (ability to solve puzzles) is, you could spend anything from 10 to 14 hours to complete the game.

It’s easy to see why the game is called Q.U.B.E, apart from the actual cubes that you use, of course. Everything is either in the shape of a cube or moves in the shape of a cube. It’s actually quite brilliant.

When I saw the Official Q.U.B.E trailer this week, I knew I just had to play it. 

I really didn’t think that there would be a game as incredible as this, this early in the year. While every one is waiting for Diablo 3, they really should have set their sights on Q.U.B.E. Since well, one: It’s awesome, and two: Diablo 3 will grace us with its presence when it’s good and ready to do so. (Whenever that is.)

I have a GeForce GTX 560 ti graphics card, Intel Core i3 CPU and 4GB DDR3 Gaming RAM which gave me a constant of 60 frames with the game set on full graphics. Q.U.B.E is not extremely resource intensive so I’m sure that just about any one can play the game without compromising the graphics for smoother gameplay. The game is about 839 MB big, which you can either contribute to excellent coding or the “shortness” of the title. I’d like to go with excellent coding though.

When entering Q.U.B.E. you find yourself in a white room with only yourself and a cube. As a gamer you almost instinctively know what to do with it. One of the incredible things about the game is that it allows players to trust and rely on their intuition to figure out just how everything works. 

The complexity of Q.U.B.E lies in its simplicity. Controls are easy to use and there’s nothing to distract you from the task at hand. Each sector (there are seven) becomes more and more elaborate, introducing new tools and new puzzles. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the floor literally get’s ripped out from under you and you realise that you haven’t really seen anything yet.

Even though the facility or building you are in has a basic look to it, your environment is always shaping and moving with you, whether by your command or the game's. The developers of Q.U.B.E. have taken something as basic as a cube and chosen the most innovative ways to use it and incorporated it into each sector. This is puzzle solving as you’ve never seen it before.

Noticeably, all over the interwebs people have been comparing Q.U.B.E to Portal. So am I going to do that? No, I am not. Soz.

It’s to be expected that people will ask the most basic of questions about this game: “How difficult are the puzzles?” and “How much fun is the game?” Well, the puzzles aren’t really difficult, they are ”puzzles-that-will-make-you-nerdrage” right up to when you solve it and you find yourself in disbelief that you actually solved it and didn’t see the solution earlier. Once again, its complexity lies in its simplicity. Applying basic logic to each puzzle will prove most advantageous.

I found Q.U.B.E to be addictively fun. I couldn’t wait to go further and further and see what else it has to offer. However, I was astounded when it was over. Here I was thinking that there’s this epic new puzzle that awaits me and even tweeted that I just finished sector 7 and was so stoked and on a roll and then just, all of a sudden, it ended. Just like that.

The game doesn’t really have a very elaborate story to it. The story is basically that you’re solving puzzles and hints at mysterious events happening outside that seem to have something to do with destroying your environment. But then, when you have completed the game, there’s this whole new surprise for you and you’re like “Whoa! I’m not really where I thought I was!” So mostly the story of why you are where you are and where you are is a great big mystery. Intriguing.

The Beauty of Q.U.B.E

Most people probably wouldn’t see what I saw in this game or probably won’t even care, but I’m going to write it anyway.

Q.U.B.E depicts life at its most basic in many ways. It's three “different environments” – white, black and gray reflect aspects of our very existence: good (white), bad (black) and everything in between (gray). It demonstrates our choices, actions, reactions, consequences and even the unbreakable determination some have to solve problems in order to progress in life.

It embodies the ability human beings have to rely on their instincts and knowledge to guide them through obstacles. It might not have been intended to be symbolised in this game but math, physics and every other fibre of science that is this universe imitates the patterns that we see in our everyday lives, in the simplest and even most complicated of things that we encounter or see on a daily basis.

Q.U.B.E is a remarkable piece of art, even though you are in a world of shapes; you experience a symphony of symmetry. According to Wikipedia:

"an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection."

Who would have thought that wiki could be so poetic.

Some Important Details

Q.U.B.E released on the 6th of January and is available on Steam for $12.74 USD or R103.65 for South Africans. (While discount offer is active.)

Required PC Specs:

Windows XP SP2 / Vista / 7
Processor: 2.0+ GHz or better (dual core recommended)
Memory: 1 GB (2 GB recommended)
Hard Disk Space: 1 GB free hard drive space
Video Card: Shader Model 3 compatible video card. NVIDIA 8000 series or higher.
DirectX®: 9.0c or higher
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible, 16-bit
The latest Critical Windows update

Important: You [b]have[/b] to have the following installed on your PC or the game will crash on startup.

Gameplay: 9

Q.U.B.E offers unique and innovative gameplay.

Graphics: 7

Crisp, clear graphics. Visually beautiful.

Storyline: 6

Hints of a great storyline, but not very present.

Soundtrack: 7

Accompanied by an original score, Q.U.B.E presents a thought stimulating soundtrack.

Immersion: 9

The puzzles in Q.U.B.E are enough to keep you glued to your screen for hours.

Total: 7.6

Q.U.B.E is a challenging and enjoyable first-person puzzle game with much to offer.

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