The base game has no plot, but the Director's Cut version adds one. Players are told via radio that they're an Amnesiac Hero who has boarded a weird cube in space to prevent it from hitting earth - but are then told by a different signal that it's all lies, and that they're actually a prisoner.
Q.U.B.E. was developed by Toxic Games, with help from Indie Fund. Given its appearance and gameplay, comparisons to Portal are probably inevitable.
A sequel, Q.U.B.E 2, was released in March 13, 2018, modifying the core mechanics with a focus on enabling the player to place one of each colored block type at a time on white tiles, and features a significantly greater variety of puzzle features. The game involves a different protagonist, Amelia Cross, finding herself in a similar alien structure to the first game, but on another planet, trying to escape with the help of a scientist named Emma Sutcliffe.
Not to be confused with the interactive cable service developed by Warner Bros. called QUBE offered in Columbus OH and a few other cities in the late 70s and early 80s (it had more impact than you would think- it carried prototypes for Nickelodeon, MTV and concepts like pay-per-view). Also no relation to Intelligent Qube.
This game (if playing the Director's Cut) provides examples of:
- Amnesiac Hero: Players are told that they've lost their memory, with Nowak saying that it was the result of an accident and 919 saying that it was done deliberately so that Nowak could lie to you.
- An Aesop: Something like an Aesop is delivered when, at the end, you're told that you've saved the Earth thanks to trusting your instructions, keeping faith, and not being cynical about what's happening. Players who expect the whole save-the-world thing to be a lie, as 919 says it is, would appear to be wrong. (Assuming you're not just in a Lotus-Eater People Jar...)
- And I Must Scream: Nowak claims that 919 had a photosynthesizing suit similar to yours, which kept him alive in the emptiness of space, for a long time.
- Big Dumb Object: Nowak claims that the player has boarded one of these to stop it from hitting the Earth. 919 says it's a great big lie. The ending shows Nowak's version to be true assuming you can trust what you see, anyway.
- Black Out Basement: A part of the game takes place in this.
- Buried Alive: 919 considers himself to be this, saying that he's sealed in a box in what he claims to be an underground facility.
- But Thou Must!: Finishing the game requires getting into the capsule, as Nowak urges. There's no way to take 919's advice instead and refuse (although 919 never explains exactly what you should do instead). Assuming the ending isn't some kind of trick, though, it's the right choice. Possibly (but not explicitly) justified if the player character is less of an amnesiac than either Nowak or 919 thinks. After all, how would they tell?
- Collision Damage: Averted; players can't hurt themselves moving about the environment.
- Elaborate Underground Base: 919 says that both he and the player are in one, and points out the lack of windows as supporting evidence. Nowak says it's a space station.
- Escape Pod: Nowak tells you that the capsule you have to get into at the end of the game is one of these, while 919 says it's one of many People Jars. Assuming the capsule isn't some sort of Lotus-Eater Machine, the ending supports Nowak's version.
- The sequel confirms that the ending was indeed real, and even goes into further detail on the mission and the aliens that created the ship in the first place.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Nowak says that this is what happened to 919, whom she claims is an astronaut previously thought to be lost in space. She also expresses some concern that she may be starting to imagine a few things herself.
- Heroic Mime: The player character never speaks. Since damage to your radio has left it only able to receive, not transmit, there wouldn't be any point.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: 919 says that the player character's amnesia is manufactured by whoever is allegedly running the place. Moreover, he says that it's a repeatable cycle, implying that it could have happened numerous times already.
- Minimalist Cast: Besides the silent protagonist, Nowak and 919 are the only characters until the very end (and are only voices, never seen).
- Mission Control: Commander Nowak takes this role (or at least, says she's relaying instructions from the people who do, since their radio can't get inside the cube thing she says you're on). 919 wants to take her place, claiming that she's lying and dangerous.
- Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Nowak and 919 can't both be right.
- People Jars: 919 tells you that the capsule you have to get into at the end of the game is one of these, while Nowak says it's an Escape Pod. Assuming the capsule isn't some sort of Lotus-Eater Machine, the ending supports Nowak's version.
- Power of Trust: Nowak tells you several times to stay trusting and hopeful. 919, on the other hand, tells you that this is just how your mutual alleged captors keep people compliant, and that doubt is vital.
- Puzzle Platformer: The point of the game is to find ways to get to the next bit, which generally requires solving a puzzle.
- The Reveal: 919 is apparently the liar, though evidence after the twist suggests that he's actually delusional.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Averted. Both Nowak and 919 say that they have no way of seeing what you're seeing, and can only judge your progress by observing the effects of it. (Of course, 919 might well claim that Nowak is lying about that, but we don't see evidence of it.)
- The Cake Is a Lie: 919 claims that the save-the-world scenario explained by Nowak is just a motivational lie, as are her promises that you'll see your wife again soon. According to 919, you're actually going to be put in a box or outright eliminated. (And people who've played Portal, which this game is inevitably going to be compared to, may think they know the script already.) In the end, it looks like the cake was real after all.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Two of them, in conflict. One tells you that you're an Amnesiac Hero on a critical mission to stop an alien object from hitting Earth, while the other tells you that you're a prisoner in an underground test facility who is being strung along with lies.
- Xtremely Kool Letterz: The game's title refers to what its entire gameplay is about, only starting with a Q instead of the usual C, with no reason given other than it looks cooler.
- You Are Number 6: 919 claims to have been deprived of his name and issued a number by the people he claims are running the "prison". When Nowak says that 919 is Jonathan Burns, a lost astronaut, 919 doesn't accept it, claiming instead that their choice of lie has a hidden Double Meaning: someone called Jonathan (whom 919 guesses to be the player) is going to burn.
The sequel provides examples of:
- 11th-Hour Superpower: Finishing Chapter 9 gives Amelia's gloves the Infinity Cubes upgrade that allows her to place as many cubes simultaneously as she wishes instead of just one of each color. However, the puzzles in the following chapters simply require this ability and thus become no easier.
- After the End: It takes a while to confirm it and it's also more implied than shown, but the story takes place on Earth after it was devastated by the events of the first game. For all we know, Amelia might well be the last living human on the planet.
- An Aesop: Much like the first game, the sequel has a notable moral message it is better to learn and understand others than resort to violence in the face of something you don't understand. The alien intelligence is testing Amelia on her patience, kindness, and empathy.
- Armies Are Evil: Played with. Emma is implied to be connected to the military, whose natural first and last approach to the cube entity is its destruction. Going along with her plan ends badly.
- Covers Always Lie: The game's Steam page shows the female protagonist standing on top of a cube pyramid out in the open, surrounded by lush greenery and with a desert in the distance from where multiple titanic cube structures loom ominously over her. The actual game takes place almost entirely indoors and although there are plants in some chapters, a scene like the described one is never witnessed.
- First-Person Ghost: Zigzagged. Amelia's hands are generally visible and have quite a range of animations. Her legs/feet, however, are invisible even while looking straight down.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: Both paths of the game's Last-Second Ending Choice converge after only a few meters, foreshadowing the reveal that Emma and the alien entity are one and the same.
- Heroic Mime: Averted. Amelia is quite talkative, and actively converses with other characters.
- Hive Mind: The controlling intelligence behind the cube structures is the hive mind of an alien species that apparently passed through The Singularity in their effort to expand their knowledge of the universe.
- Interface Spoiler: Some of the achievement names are pretty spoilery, especially the one you get for following the red wire at the end. Something called "The Truthful Enemy" should give you plenty of reason not to do what its description demands. Unsurprisingly, it leads to the bad ending.
- Last-Second Ending Choice: Amelia is presented with two options at the end of the game, symbolised by two doors with blue and red tubes, respectively. Specifically, either spare the alien intelligence and help it, or go with Emma's plan to destroy it. It turns out it's a Secret Test of Character, as symbolised by the tubes coming together into one path after you make your choice. And, well, guess which choice fails the test
- Minimalist Cast: Much like the first game. The game starts off with only two characters, who are voiced and also have portraits. However, the Alien Intelligence not only starts communicating later, one of the two starting characters was actually part of its Hive Mind.
- Mission Control: Emma. And then later, the alien intelligence. Though it turns out they were one and the same.
- Nerd Glasses: Science Hero Amelia wears them. Nerds Are Sexy is in full effect, though.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It turns out destroying the Cube in the first game was a bad idea.
- Precursors: A lot of "fridge logic" 919 highlights in the previous game is explained by implication, as it turns out the Cube and the alien Hive Mind in it actually elevated humanity long ago, passing on their knowledge to them and enabling them including mechanisms and symbols.
- Pregnant Badass: Player Character Amelia is with child, probably in an early stage since even her husband didn't know about it. Doesn't prevent her from making her way through a maze of mysterious puzzle rooms with nothing but her wits.
- The Reveal: Two, in fact. Reveal 1: The game actually takes place on Earth, in an After the End scenario caused by the pieces of the Cube falling to Earth. Reveal 2: The entire game was one big Secret Test of Character on the part of the alien intelligence, and Emma was part of the alien hive mind.
- Scenery Porn: The second game has significantly more variety in terms of environmental art, and it shows, nevermind the jump to new hardware and a new engine enabling significantly higher visual quality across the board.
- Secret Test of Character: The alien intelligence provides Amelia with a choice at the end, using 'Emma' to present the option that fails the test. If she passes, it helps her restore Earth and humanity. If she fails, it decides Humans Are Bastards and absorbs her.
- The Singularity: The alien species that built the cube used to be composed of individuals like mankind, but merged their collective consciousnesses into a Hive Mind to enable further scientific progress.
- Taken for Granite: If you choose to destroy the alien entity via the red path, it's heavily implied that Amelia ends up as yet another one of the cube-carrying statues you've come across throughout the chapters.
- Uplifted Animal: If the alien intelligence is to be believed, human civilization only got to where it is today thanks to their benevolent interference.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Choosing to go along with Emma's plan to destroy the alien intelligence constitutes the game's bad ending, with Amelia failing the Secret Test of Character and being implied to get turned into another of the weird cube-carrying statues.