Portal will go down in gaming history for being able to completely redefine how a puzzle game can and should be in terms of a story and narrative, and moving the genre into the realm of 3D with physics-based challenges to boot. Here lies another game which at first glance seems to be copy-pasting its design and system to create its own success, but underneath this there is so much more to it.
Developed by Toxic Games, Q.U.B.E Director’s Cut is the expanded version of the original puzzle game, now with an added story and plot to give it the true Portal feel, with everything from the strange physics device to the overlooking voice. For me, the plot really serves its purpose here in providing another way to look at the game, and makes the final minutes of this game something really worth playing and experiencing. Admittedly it started off quite poorly; the writing was slightly off and it felt like a simple re-hash of so many ‘amnesia’ drop-offs that have started games and gamers off before.
However soon the story becomes something quite complex and another puzzle in itself, adding an extra dimension into your actions, which in a puzzle game is something that should be applauded. Being as vague as possible here, the arguments you encounter within the game and in your own mind give the game the basis of “Who’s the real Villain here”, and helped to set the tone for a generally confusing journey. This did have a key drawback though, as whilst offering this new perspective into the unfolding events, it didn’t allow you to have a say in how it went along, and was as linear as it gets in most parts. It limited the immersion which was a shame as with some additional choice aspects, we could really be looking at something really special.
The basic gameplay is strong, and serves excellently in its key basis of ‘challenge’; each level meticulously crafted which only goes to show the level of care and effort which has gone into making this game a frustrating yet truly enjoyable experience. The tutorial levels and stages still feel like an accomplishment, which keeps you wanting to play when the game is at its simplest, and the story only furthers this drive to carry on, meaning the later stages can really aim to crank up the difficulty in safe knowledge that you’ll want to keep playing ‘one more level’, which of course I did.
Perhaps the highlight of the game, excluding the impressive ending, comes around the halfway stage, as the lights go out, and the visuals of this game just go into full show-off mode, leaving you with only your wits and a few fluorescent lights to move through the stage. It felt slightly shorter than I would’ve hoped for such an excellent stage, but that can hardly be a major criticism. To draw one criticism from it, however, it does become increasingly about reaction time rather than puzzle solving at one point, which made some of the stages actually aggravating, but this doesn’t last for more than a few puzzles in the entire game. The gameplay on a whole is responsive and very well-crafted, and the time trial mode means that you can really test these features, providing an overall brilliant experience whilst playing.
Presentation-wise again, this game continues to impress. The visual style is simplistic in most stages, gradually introducing new features as the game goes on, such as destroyed surroundings and of course the glowing scenery, and generally makes for a good-looking game. Again in this sense there will be many looks towards Portal as its inspiration for this basic and ‘clean’ look, but this certainly isn’t a bad thing, as what it does it does well, and mixes it with enough personal content to remove any claims to copyright. This look combines excellently too with the voice acting, which by the end was spot on for the tone required, and the music that constantly surrounds the player.
The music is one of the best parts of this game, being atmospheric and dark enough so the player knows what kind of place they’re in, but not being overwhelmingly loud or upsetting to make the game anything other than a complex and intriguing challenge, getting the balance just right. It can become slightly annoying in some points, but this only helps to add to the urgency in some situations, and making the challenges seem a lot harder than they are, immersing you more into the mind of the main character.
The difficulty is there, and increases gradually with your knowledge of mechanics and new ways, and in the Director’s Cut there are new secret rooms for those of you who fancy a true challenge. They’re quite hard to find, but can be done so with a little exploring and a few double checks for false walls, and provide another way to extend this game past its 3-4 hour play time.
Overall, this is a really excellent game, and one I will definitely be replaying if only for achievements and secret rooms, but well worth any amount of money that’s available below the ridiculous. A strong story, amazing art style, brilliant music, and portal-esque gameplay; a statement that really shows how good this game is. Not perfect, but getting close.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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