Announced nearly six years since the first title released, Q.U.B.E 2. changes up the play-style of the first game by giving players more control over the puzzles which haunt the strange construct they have to explore.
Since it was announced on the 3rd of August, I’ve bumped into Q.U.B.E. 2, or at least members of studio Toxic Games, in three countries. To say that they’ve been busy getting the word out there is a massive understatement, as would saying that their debut series’ second entry is simply more of the same.
Launched back in 2011, the first Q.U.B.E. dumped players, amnesia-struck, in the midst of a massive, autonomous construct made up almost entirely of smaller cubes. The vast majority of these were static, soft-looking grey cubes, however amidst them were coloured blocks which could be controlled by the player to solve various puzzles in an attempt to escape. Q.U.B.E. released around the same time as a mass of other sterile-setting, first-person puzzle games in the wake of the Portal phenomenon; Q.U.B.E’s voiced narrative and ‘physics playground’ nature set it apart from the rest, however, and it managed to win a lot of much-deserved praise.
While Q.U.B.E. 2 builds on most of the core elements of the game — an engine shift, visuals overhaul and a wonderfully, emotively voiced story — it is definitely the changes to the way the puzzles work which deserves the greatest celebration.
With the game each puzzle space was made up of several objects — normally a few coloured panels — which could be charged or discharged by the player (extending the reds, priming the blues, focusing the yellows, etc.) so that they could either pass an object through a set space or simply navigate themselves to the end of the level.
In the sequel, these tiles are uncoloured when players enter into the space, with new colours added to the players gauntlet as they journey further through the construct. The puzzle complexity is still extremely well regulated, with puzzles focusing on each of the colours heavy in density as they are first introduced, then simply integrating into the ever-increasing selection as the game goes on.
The majority of the puzzles I experienced, while playing through the demos at EGX ’17 and Game Anglia ’17, were still functionally similar to those of the earlier stages of the first game — the passing of the onus of colour distribution to the player makes their role in the game feel a lot more proactive than the reactive, path-led way they moved through the halls of the first.
Gone also is the amnesiac, mute protagonist of the first game and the two narrators trying to split the player’s attention. Instead we find ourselves played as Amelia ‘Milly’ Cross, an archaeologist trapped in a corrupted version of the first game’s cube and led by fellow ‘survivor’ Emma. Both have their faces appear on the UI when they’re talking, and due to the conversational tone between the two of them, and the excellent voice acting, the game’s brief, twenty minute demo was already vastly more compelling and emotive than the first.
Finally, the most noticeable change comes in the shift from Unreal Engine 3 to 4. It’s an engine known for its exceptional lighting effects, which would have been easily used to create an environment not unlike the first game’s flat, sterile, soft-looking cubes. Instead, Q.U.B.E 2’s starting area is filled with scraped metallic cubes jutting out from the wall. No longer does the place seem like an asylum or a lab, instead it feels like a barely functional alien ruin. Escaping, and getting home, is the goal here, not passing to the next room.
While I’m sure that there will be plot-twists aplenty, including an expansion on how the cube manages to emulate moments inspired by Milly’s memories, we’ll have to wait until closer to launch to find out more about all of that.
You can find the trailer from the game’s announcement below,
Q.U.B.E. 2 is currently planned for launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in early 2018.