When Q.U.B.E (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) was released back in 2011, it was a quirky, monochromatic, physics-based puzzle platformer very much in the same vein as games like Portal. Using your high-tech spacesuit to guide and manipulate blocks through increasingly difficult challenges was fun and unique, but ultimately a hollow experience without much of a story guiding you to your ultimate end.

Enter Q.U.B.E: The Director’s Cut, an expanded version of the game that includes a fully voiced narrative, a brand-new musical score and a series of new challenges built for people who love to speedrun their puzzle games. Not only that, but the game is finally expanding its release to consoles, with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U getting releases throughout the month of July and August. With all this new content added on to the base package, is it still the fun, challenging and quirky puzzle-platformer that its been for the last four years, or have these added elements weighed down an otherwise solid product?

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You begin the game waking up in a padded cell. You don’t know how you got there or why you’re wearing a high-tech suit, all you know is what you can see, which is a seemingly endless stream of white. When you begin to come to, a voice comes over the speaker telling you that you’re on an alien spacecraft and that you are the only thing standing between it and a direct attack on Earth. This woman, Nowack, claims to be a source of help, though she can only help in brief glimpses as her own ship passes the one you’re on. Before long you begin to move throughout the ship, though a second voice, that of a male, comes on and claims that you are not in space but in a deep underground facility. You are a scientific experiment and nothing more. With these two voices telling you contradictory stories, it’s up to you to figure out who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Rob Yescombe, the writer behind Alien Isolation, pens the narrative and while it’s not all that long, clocking in at only a couple of hours, it has some real weight to it. You are alone, isolated from the rest of society and the only way to progress is by figuring out and conquering the challenges that await you. That feeling of loneliness is compounded by the silent nature of the protagonist, leaving the man and Nowack to provide the emotional depth of the story. Whenever they chime in, a rush of relief falls over you because you’re no longer left to your own thoughts, which in a situation like this, can be more terrifying than any enemy you may or may not come into contact with. Their stories aren’t usually a source of comfort though, as more often than not they’re putting a heavy load onto your shoulders that really brings some hefty and existential questions into play. Why are you here? What is your purpose? Why do you need to progress? Why are you alone? Most of these questions are answered in due time, but when they first pop into your head they really start to eat away at you.

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The voice acting and score only help to magnify the narrative, as Rachel Robinson and Rupert Evans do a phenomenal job of bringing the story to life and giving the story the necessary heft that it needs. The minimalistic music works wonders for the setting, ebbing and flowing with a grace that really draws you into the setting in ways that a more orchestral score might not be able to.. The only downside is the brief length of the story. While it tells a full and complete narrative, and what is here is certainly well done, the world, characters and settings could have been fleshed out more to really hammer in the ideas the game is trying to present.

One of the things that remains largely unchanged from the original is the wonderful puzzle design presented around every corner. It starts off simple enough, with the player using the various colored blocks to reach the next area, but the further you progress, the more complicated things become. What starts as escape slowly turns into navigating balls down hallways and guiding lasers to their target destination. It builds off what you’ve already established and while it does ramp up in difficulty, it feels natural and organic and you never feel too frustrated while playing. The game relies on skills you’ve learned from previous areas and if you’re a keen and observant player, nothing will seem too out of reach, even if the solution may seem convoluted from time to time. It’s easy to lose yourself in the game as you try and try again to reach your final destination.

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The Against the Clock mode, which puts you in the same rooms and puzzles but with the added benefit of a timer, are a brilliant addition to the game and add some much needed challenge to some of the easier puzzles in the game. When you have all the time in the world, you can take your time and get the hang of things, but with this mode, you’ll constantly be balancing the clock against your skills. When you’re just about to beat a puzzle and only have a few seconds left on the clock, it creates an exhilarating experience unlike most puzzle games I’ve played recently. I could have done with a few more challenges, just so I had more to do once I was finished, but that’s’ just the selfish part of me that wanted to keep playing.

Aesthetically, the game is a bit more of a mixed bag. The quiet, sterile environments mixed with the colorful blocks, balls and lasers is certainly striking at first, but after a while you begin to wish for more variety in terms of its setting. The white on grey on white gets tiresome after a while and it’s a shame since the suit design is so awesome from what very little we see of it. It’s also important to note that while it has been updated for current-gen consoles, it’s still a re-release of a game from 2011, so textures and backgrounds can get a bit muddy at times and it never really utilizes the graphical power of the consoles in a way that would be beneficial to the game. While the game is a joy to play, the design left me hoping for more.

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At the end of the day, what Q.U.B.E excels at is in its puzzles. The story is well done, with fantastic writing and voice acting working well with the minimalistic score, but the brief length and lack of world building hurt what could’ve otherwise been a truly memorable story. The backgrounds, environments and textures feel like a game made in 2011, for better or worse, and the lack of variety in the design really hampered my enjoyment when I stopped and stared at what was around me. Still, the gameplay is fun and ingenious and the time trial challenge mode added some much needed suspense in a way that made the game immensely more engaging. The only issue is one that will apply to certain players: the replay value. While many will go back to Q.U.B.E and try to better their times and experience the story once again, I found little reason to return once I was finished all the way through. It was fun while it lasted, and I enjoyed my time with it, but it lacked that oomph that made me have to scratch that itch just one more time. If it’s for the right price, and you’re a fan of puzzle games, you’re bound to enjoy your time with Q.U.B.E, just don’t expect much once the credits have faded to black.

Q.U.B.E Director's Cut Review
The Good
  • Engaging Puzzle Design
  • Fantastic Story
  • Against the Clock Mode
The Bad
  • Brief Story Length
  • Lack of Variety in Backgrounds
  • Little Replay Value
7Overall Score
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About The Author

Travis M
Reviews/Editorial Writer

Travis has been a freelance journalist for a number of years, covering everything from movies to comic books to video games. He began back in 2009 owning and operating his own award-winning blog and since then has gone on to work at everywhere from MTV to Talking Comics. When he's not writing, he runs his own YouTube channel dedicated to games and goes to the library about three or four times a week. His favorite subject is murder mysteries, which he also writes in his spare time.