After Portal shocked the world and quickly ascended onto its throne as one of the greatest games ever made, it was inevitable that other developers would step up to the plate and attempt to recreate the magic that Valve had rather unknowingly stumbled upon. Among the earliest of these was QUBE, an acronym I don’t care to spell out (largely because I still do not know what it stands for) and a minimalistic puzzle game focused around manipulating the different properties of cubes as you make your way through a starkly colored labyrinth with a vast assortment of puzzles standing between you and your goal. It sounds familiar to be sure (change a few words and I am describing Portal almost exactly), but QUBE manages to set itself apart in the areas that matter, though ironically winds of bringing itself down in the end by playing things too close to the chest.
The parts that make QUBE interesting are also the ones most in need of some room to breath. Throughout your three-hour trek through the mysterious structure you find yourself in, new mechanics are introduced and discarded with almost every other puzzle. This is good in the fact that you’re constantly being given new tools to work with and new ways to think about how to progress through the level, but also a double-edged sword in that much of the time you spend with any given mechanic is used up just figuring out how it works. When you eventually get the handle on how to use one and feel you’re ready for some more challenging puzzles, it’s swapped out for something new which then restarts the learning process over again, repeating up until the very end.
It’s not so bad as to make QUBE unenjoyable, but it does fall rather short in comparison to its contemporaries, and feels as if the developer felt they would only get one chance and as a result had to put every idea they had into this one game. It makes for a rather erratic experience that never quite finds its footing.
The most prominent addition to the director’s cut version of QUBE is an entirely new narrative, but unfortunately it’s as half-baked and tacked on as you would expect for something that was added years after the original game released. It’s inoffensive and decently acted, but adds nothing to the experience except needless questions that go nowhere and some outrageously long elevator rides.
QUBE isn’t going to be remembered as a modern classic, perhaps not remembered at all, but for a first person puzzle game it’s just decent enough to be worth checking out. The framework that’s here could potentially be turned into a much better sequel, which hopefully is in the pipeline, but as it stands I don’t regret the time I spent with the game even if it failed on a fundamental level to leave an impression. If you’ve already played the original however, feel free to pass up the director’s cut. You aren’t missing anything, and might in fact have a better experience playing the original sans the awkward story, left to create your own narrative out of the events transpiring. Sometimes less really is more.