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Review

Q.U.B.E 2 (Switch eShop) Review

by February 26, 2019

All those years back, Valve set a pretty high standard with the Portal series. From it emerged a lot more physics-based first-person puzzle games. Q.U.B.E (which I will refer to as QUBE to save on full stops) was one of these, and was pretty decent. The Director’s Cut built on that, and now Toxic Games have given us a sequel, QUBE 2. There is plenty of room for more physics puzzle games on the Switch, but does QUBE 2 stack up?

On first appearances, the QUBE series shares a lot in common with the Portal series. At least with the kind of physics puzzles and mechanics involved, and the more clinical testing areas. Though QUBE 2 does not share the humour Portal is well known for. Without a Portal game for the Switch (Portal Bridge Constructor aside), it’s up to QUBE 2 to fill that space. Your character ‘Milly’ wakes up with no memory of how she got there, wearing a glove that can manipulate white blocks to perform a range of functions. Strategically dotted around each area are white blocks, where you can use the glove to give the squares the different functions while also working out the order they’re needed to progress.

For example, you can make the block blue and it will propel whatever lands on it. Red will make the block extend out, and green will make a cube that can be moved under certain conditions (as well as an extra colour function, later on, I won’t spoil). The white blocks are only placed where they are needed to solve the puzzle, so there is always a specific way to solve it. Is it two blocks with one on top of the other? Then you likely need to drop a green cube on top of a blue block so you can propel it across an obstacle and onto a pressure plate. Or you could try having a red block extended out so the green cube can land on it, and used as steps to a raised area. Over the course of 5-6 hours, you’ll be finding all kinds of different ways these few colour functions can be used to overcome the increasingly challenging puzzles.

While it wasn’t until QUBE: The Director’s Cut that a story was introduced, QUBE 2 has a narrative throughout and follows on from the Director’s Cut story. While I hadn’t played The Directors Cut, it was possible to pick up what happened and how it relates to the sequel. If anything, the plot is quite surreal and obtuse. The protagonist Milly and Commander Sutcliffe work together to help Milly navigate a mystery structure so she can escape and get back home. Not too far in it becomes apparent that it is not that simple, and things are not as they seem. Along the way there are conversations between the characters as well as Milly interacting with a mysterious entity that help fill out the story. If you’re no stranger to Sci fi then you’ll likely guess what’s happening by the time you get the conclusion. It’s not a bad story, and even though I had my suspicions about what was going on I still wanted to see it through to the credits.

Each different area usually focuses on certain forms of puzzles. Some will have you just solving the room’s puzzle with the blocks available, then gradually more mechanics are thrown in. Throughout the game you’ll get used to magnetic plates, moving objects with oil, spheres, and being flung around by platforms. A big positive is that each new mechanic is introduced gradually. It never feels overwhelming, and by the time different mechanics are more frequently used together, you should have a good understanding of how they work together. More often than not the puzzles are engaging and you’ll want to finish them, experiencing that moment of revelation and the joy that comes from overcoming a tough brain teaser. In the last half or at least the last third of game, there are larger sections focused on specific mechanics. It’s not necessarily a bad thing overall, but if there is a type of puzzle you’re tired of or just not enjoying you’re stuck with them for longer than you’d like. While some sections look like they have some freedom for you to do some improvised puzzling, this game is very linear. In some areas you can choose the order you do the puzzle in, but there’s no space for thinking outside of the box (or block).

The Joycon controls don’t seem suited towards some of the actions it asks you to do. Puzzles that involve quick swapping and precise aiming were often more work than they should be because of imprecise movement. I tried to adjust the axis sensitivity but that actually made it worse. Fortunately it never created any real barriers to continuing, but the pro controller may be a better option for you with this game. The biggest issue with movement isn’t controller related anyway, as the movement in the game is often so slow. Why on earth is there no run button?! When you’re working on a more lengthy puzzle where you need to move around a lot, it can take away all motivation to keep going. When moving down long windy corridors between story or puzzle moments, it feels like you’re walking through molasses. It’s the thing actual nightmares are made of.

Unfortunately that’s not all. QUBE 2 seems to struggle at times, whether it’s frame rate or visual glitching. The frame rate tended to drop more on the way between puzzles, which made the slow walking that little more prominent. It was only in the last third of the game where the more organic the world got, the more that scenery would flicker in and out of existence. Honestly neither of these impacted upon the gameplay, it mostly highlighted other minor issues like the slow movement. It really is a shame the graphical issues happen more often at the point of the game where it seems to be more visually interesting. One area it does hold up in QUBE 2 is the music and atmospheric sounds, it adds to the sci fi surreal atmosphere when there’s musical moments. As you progress the more open the environments become and the more sounds around you just help give the game some much needed life even if it can be really subtle most of the time. Although like with the visuals, it falters in places. If you are playing in handheld I don’t recommend having the sound up too high as some of the louder more sudden sounds distort the handheld mode’s speaker. But at least the overall music works for the game.

QUBE 2 is an enjoyable physics based puzzler, but unfortunately the game does falter once you take focus away from the puzzles. While it struggles with visual and technical issues, they’re not enough to keep you from getting to the end of the story. It’s not that the game is bad, the Switch version is just not the most ideal option with the game available on other consoles. If you want a puzzle game that gives you a limited amount of tools to work out how they all fit together, there is still enough to like here to give it a try.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Good

- Fun and thoughtful puzzles
- The story keeps everything moving
- Music and atmospheric sounds add to the environment

The Bad

- No run button
- Last third drags out
- Imprecise controls, technical and visual glitches

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Final Thoughts

QUBE 2 is an enjoyable physics-based puzzler, but unfortunately, the game does falter once you take the focus away from the puzzles. While it struggles with visual and technical issues, they’re not enough to keep you from getting to the end of the story. It’s not that the game is bad, the Switch version is just not the most ideal option with the game available on other consoles. If you want a puzzle game that gives you a limited amount of tools to work out how they all fit together, there is still enough to like here to give it a try.

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About The Author
Paul Roberts
Lego enthusiast, Picross Master and appreciator of games.

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