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Q.U.B.E 2: The Portal-Field Paradox

The mineral pyrite naturally forms itself into cubes. It’s pretty wacky and almost disturbing; imagine stumbling across a bunch of cube-shaped rocks in the middle of nature. You might just start to believe in aliens. Or God – after all, how else could you explain it?

Far more explainable, but also fascinating, is how Q.U.B.E (and its sequel) seem to suffer negatively from Portal impostor syndrome, while at the same most likely appealing most to fans of Portal. The irony, is functionally, Q.U.B.E 2 has more in common with the best moments of Zelda: BOTW, than it does Portal.

Wait, what? Upon purchasing a Nintendo Switch and getting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild I found myself…annoyed. This was a massive game with tons of interesting things to try and do…if I knew where to look. And with a full-time job, and other, newer, games I was obligated to write about, scouring Hyrule for shrines felt a lot like doing my homework before I was allowed to go out to play.

It’s gaming blasphemy, but I wished Zelda featured some sort of teleportation function – taking me to the next closest, mind-challenging shrine, versus making me seek them out on my own. Don’t get me wrong, a sense of discovery is great…when you don’t have other things to do.

And that’s why I’m so warm on Q.U.B.E 2 – a puzzle game that tickles the same itch as the Zelda: Breath of The Wild’s shrines, with none of that pesky majesty and discovery in the middle. All killer, no filler, as they say. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had solving puzzles *since* Breath of The Wild, that’s for sure. I can drop in for 20 minutes and know I’ll be face-to-face with a challenge at all times – not a wide-open field challenging me to make my own fun.

Q.U.B.E 2’s premise finds you stranded on a strange planet, and in order to re-establish contact, and hopefully escape, you need to puzzle your way through a monolithic structure filled with puzzles – all your abilities related to cubes and cube-like materials. Bouncy cubes, momentum cubes, throw-able cubes, movable cubes, and more. Each room finds you manipulating cubes or cube platforms via the power of physics, in order to make it to the exit and move your way forward to the next, increasingly more devious, challenge.

And devious the game does get, with each challenge compounding on what you previously knew, getting you to think unique ways. One room may have you bounce on a blue square. The next may need you to place a square while bouncing. The next may require you to place a square under you *first* then bounce, for extra height. Occasionally it’s moving a single cube across a room to create a stable platform. Other times it’s a Rube Goldberg-esque series of creations to slot a ball into a hole. The creativity of the puzzles on hand will keep you coming back for more…until you get stuck; at which point your desire to press on depends entirely on your wherewithal and desire to complete the next puzzle.

What I mean by this, is that unlike Q.U.B.E 2’s aforementioned contemporary, Portal (and Portal 2), the story of Q.U.B.E 2 isn’t enough to keep you moving forward by itself – Portal 2 was a rollicking adventure in puzzle-game form, and you’d press on – and even consult an FAQ for a solution, just to see what’d happen next. Q.U.B.E 2, while its story is serviceable and intriguing, doesn’t deliver on that level – instead the reward is in knowing you thought outside the box, and the satisfaction of progression should be enough – and in most cases it entirely is.

It’s Star Wars vs. Star Trek, really. One’s an incredibly popular sci-fi adventure, and the other is a little more heady and a little more…sterile; designed to entertain, but more interested in provoking your intelligence. Q.U.B.E 2 is Star Trek, though it offers locations that’d feel more at home in Prometheus or Alien than they would in a Valve game or Star Trek series.

Ultimately, Q.U.B.E 2 is a quality game through and through. Tough, challenging, and despite aesthetic similarities, entirely its own ‘thing’ that’ll challenge your problem solving skills in all sorts of unique ways. If you’re the kind of gamer who wished Zelda was all shrines, or thought Portal 2 was too simple, I’d advise against being a sqaure, and picking up Q.U.B.E 2.

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