The visual design of Q.U.B.E. is actually one of its strongest selling points. The graphics are not incredibly detailed, but they have a clean look with the majority of your surroundings comprised of white blocks. This allows the interactive elements in the environment to stand out, because they are usually brightly colored in some way to draw attention to them. Like most puzzle games, things start off quite simple.
The controls actually lend themselves very well to using a game controller. I played the original Q.U.B.E. on PC and while the mouse and keyboard interface worked, moving around is far better using the controller in my experience. As for the puzzles themselves, you start off with some very basic block manipulations. Push it over here, plug it over there and try to create a path to the room's exit. There are some mild platforming elements to be had here as well, but what I think I enjoyed most about Q.U.B.E.'s puzzles was that there was wiggle room.
That wiggle room both helps and hurts the experience. Sometimes I felt like I was doing precisely what I had to in order to advance, but a block would take a funny bounce or turn and react just a bit differently than I had expected. This made for somewhat imprecise jumps and timing, but it also allowed me to sometimes complete a puzzle, only to pause and wonder if that was what the developer had had in mind, or if I had just gotten lucky.
Naturally the types of puzzles get harder as time goes on. What starts as a simple slide or jump later becomes a series of timed jumps, magnified boxes, leaps of faith and plenty of trial and error. Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut is not a terribly long game. it can be beaten in a handful of hours, but the pacing and difficulty ramp is excellent.
The accompanying music and sound effects are almost soothing most of the time. I never felt rushed or panicked as I simply thought over the trials before me and erred, learned, recalculated and tried again. It is a good, well-balanced formula. I touched on the visuals briefly before, and while most of the game has a bright white, almost futuristic hospital feeling to it, I really enjoyed some of the more degraded locations I found along the way as well. They were visually appealing and different from the majority of the levels and added a bit of flavor to what otherwise could have wound up a graphically boring game.
So what are the big differences between the original version of the game i played on PC a few years ago and this one? For one, there is an attempt at wrapping the events of Q.U.B.E. within a narrative. Now, that story is a bit soft as you are thrust into the role of amnesiac riding along in an alien ship that is plummeting towards the earth to disastrous impact. You know this because of another person who speaks to you only occasionally as you fall in and out of transmission range. It is a light story that really does not do much to advance the gameplay itself, but I preferred it to the stark barren world that the original game inhabited.
There is also a new time-trail mode with some puzzles that are incredibly challenging. On the whole, that describes the nature of the puzzles in Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut quite well. They are challenging - in some ways every bit as good as the puzzles found within the more popular Portal titles. Of course, Portal 2 had a bigger budget and more people throwing their efforts behind it, so it had a level of polish that Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut is lacking. That being said, if you enjoy a first person puzzle game and have not yet played this one on PC, you will likely find the experience a rewarding one.
Review by Nick