Republished on Wednesday 29th August 2018: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of September's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
In Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut, you don't know who you are – you've lost your memory. All you know is what's fed to you by an astronaut aboard the ISS, but even then, that information is questionable. Sure, in Toxic Games' maiden title, you know exactly what to do, but you never know why you're doing it – and that's the beauty of it.
In case you were wondering, Q.U.B.E stands for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, and that's what you'll be getting as you start the game up. Using different types of blocks, you'll have to find a way to get out of a room and into the next one. Handily, these blocks are colour coded: blue blocks launch you into air if you step on them, red blocks extend and retract at your will, and yellow sets of blocks form stairs, depending on where you interact with them.
The game eases you into the puzzles relatively well, giving you a quick understanding [See what you did there – Ed] of the mechanics. The difficulty level steadily rises, forcing you to combine these blocks; in one instance, we had to create stairs with yellow blocks in order to reach a blue launch pad, and then extend a red block to land on. Q.U.B.E starts to mix things up really quickly after that, which is crucial for a two hour game; soon enough, green blocks that can be reset and experimented with, balls that need to go into specific holes, and even colour mixing – we hope you remember your middle school art classes – are all thrown in at regular intervals, preventing the release from becoming stale.
The fact that we mentioned that the game was two hours long may have put some of you off, but there's plenty more to get up to in this title – including hidden puzzles which weren't in the original title, but are definitely the best and most innovative of them all. Not only that, but once you've completed the main story mode, you can then go back and test your memory in the Time Trial mode, which adds a sense of urgency to a game that already encourages quick thinking.
Like many other first person puzzlers, Q.U.B.E has a very cerebral, entertaining story to get your teeth into. According to the aforementioned astronaut, you're in the process of saving Earth from an evil that you're currently inside of. You don't know what this evil looks like or what it's going to do, but your only option is to plod on and take the beast down from inside.
However, soon enough, another voice starts to speak to you – one that desperately tries to convey a sad truth. He claims that you're being tested on, and that you're being pushed further and further away from civilization until you break. Still, since you can't see outside where you are, you plod on, even through an unforgiving darkness. Although the ending is a little anticlimactic, the storytelling and setup is absolutely superb, and raises many questions: which voice do you trust? Will you ever know?
This is helped by the soundtrack; while dull and generic at times, there are some moments when the sound and game come together and blow you away. At one point, there's a section in complete darkness that forces you to only see and interact with one type of block at a time – the absolute highlight of the game – and the score blows the section out of the water; the suspense and unease that this sequence creates just adds to an already tense atmosphere.
Of course, a game that wants to create an atmosphere has to look good, too, and Q.U.B.E succeeds in that respect. The bright whites lining the walls can be headache-inducing at times, so we suggest turning the brightness down, but other than that the title has a simple, minimalistic art style; primary colours, blacks, and whites are the main colour palette, contrasting the complex puzzles that you'll be solving.
Q.U.B.E Director's Cut does very, very well for a game in a genre perfected by Portal, and while it's not quite at that calibre, it's a polished, complex, and enjoyable puzzler that has replayability, too. The story is deep, the mechanics are well thought out, and the graphics are simple – the ending is the only real downer in this game of many high points. A must for any indie or puzzle game fan.