QBEH-1 – The Atlas Cube (PC) review
- Many puzzles allow for a degree of individuality
- Very relaxing experience, even when balanced with moments of tension
- Aesthetically well designed, being both impressive to see and helping judge jumps or placement
Not so much?
- Occasional moments of aimlessness
Qbeh-1 – The Atlas Cube is fairly linear, but many of the puzzles have enough flexibility that you will feel able to leave your own fingerprint on them; combined with it being relaxing and occasionally tense, and you end up with a satisfying overall experience.
QBEH-1 may seem near unpronounceable, but the game is approachable in a way the title is not. Set in crumbling, abandoned ruins floating in the skies of several cube-worlds, your only goal is to progress to each exit. And of course, it’s never just that simple…
QBEH-1 – The Atlas Cube (to give it its full title) is the prequel to developer Liquid Flower Games’ own Qbeh, a four level platform puzzler created as a student title. Now with several worlds each holding six levels, you have far more to progress through, and that progress is inevitably hindered – with routes often requiring a bit of lateral thought and a lot of cunning block placement.
Yes, blocks – let’s just get the aesthetic comparison out of the way quickly. The world is very much cube-based, and you’ll often find yourself with a block or twenty being carried; but if screenshots make you think of Minecraft, think again. You are not trying to build a world, merely using the cubes as measuring tools to build a route. It is a useful guide – you can jump the height of a single block (under usual circumstances, at least…), and it can show you exactly where block placement is allowed, even if block placement is not automatically advised.
You have to find those blocks as you progress, and they come in limited quantities – early stages may involve you simply finding two or three to make some steps, before turning to re-collect them before moving on; quickly this will become a matter of placing platforms over empty space, having to make careful leaps before collecting pieces of your current platform to create your next one.
The blocks themselves come in various flavours – some may only be good for jumping on, while others may also be used as keys, or may have an area effect to reduce gravity, or… they quickly become your set of tools, and your advancement relies on your learning to work with them.
You will often find situations where it seems you have fewer key blocks than there are locks, or elevators you will never be able to reach in time, and a little observation is often followed by a few moments testing, before realisation hits. While the game does have a degree of linearity (although some exploration is definitely advised, often paying off with more blocks or a short-cut, or sometimes just a nice view), some of the puzzles can be solved with a degree of creativity and personalisation.
The game is controlled with the WASD + mouse combo, or with a joypad (personal experience found the keys to be more responsive, sometimes miss-timing jumps on the pad), and in many ways feels like a first-person shooter without the stress of people shooting at you. Indeed, without stress generally – QBEH-1 is a relaxed game. Like, really relaxed, almost at Proteus levels of laid back. Wandering and exploring, you have the world to yourself, with a very calm soundtrack of incidental music and sounds. Birds sing; the wind blows; random sounds play. It is only when you influence this world by opening doors or moving things around that there are ever briefly harsher noises.
As such, it is a strange combination that this relaxation is tempered with a sense of tension – if you aren’t keen on heights then the leaps of faith as you build and jump your way around can lead to positively palm-sweating moments… yet thanks to checkpoints scattered around, never adding too much worry.
If the game can be faulted for anything, it has to be occasional lacks of direction. From time to time, you may find yourself wandering looking for extra blocks or different routes; this can be often matched by seeing checkpoints you’ve already tripped nearby and wondering if you’ve simply looped back on yourself.
Perspective is often key in these situations; with the levels being relatively short, stepping away from the game to return after a break doesn’t feel like a loss of too much progress, and with fresh eyes you’ll likely find yourself seeing the trigger needed to start a lift moving, or the block holding a door open that can be snatched back from the other side without being crushed in the process…
The game is newly released on Steam, with some additions via future updates already announced; there is promised support for Oculus Rift headsets, and a pending level editor which will hopefully add to the game’s longevity with some imagination from the community.
QBEH-1 – The Atlas Cube is fairly linear, but many of the puzzles have enough flexibility that you will feel able to leave your own fingerprint on them. Combining this with the seeming contradiction of it being relaxing and occasionally tense, and you end up with a satisfying experience.
QBEH-1 – The Atlas Cube is available now on Steam; for the first two weeks of release it will also be available for 25% off the full price.