by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
What's in a... tutorial
A games tutorial is often a preview for what the rest of the game has to offer, be it good or bad. If the tutorial is filled with plenty of action and excitement, you know that the game will be one hell of a ride. If the tutorial takes its time and draws you into the world, then you’d expect the atmosphere and environment to be a major focus as you play. And if there is no tutorial? Then the game is sending a clear message: Figure this out yourself, because you’re getting no help from us.
Thankfully, the absence of a tutorial in Qbeh-1 The Atlas Cube is not a detriment, but rather a signal that the player will have to discover and figure out each puzzles' solutions by themselves. And, as any good puzzle game accomplishes, it makes you feel amazing as you do so. There may not be a story, and there may not be a great deal of action and spectacle, but Qbeh-1 is a rewarding experience.
Qbeh-1 is a first-person puzzle game set in a world of cubes floating in the sky. Your job is to reach the glowing doorway at the end of each level by placing different kinds of cubes throughout the world in order to progress. As I stated a couple sentences ago, there is no story to speak of in Qbeh-1, and your sole purpose is to complete the puzzles in each level. That is by no means a bad thing to have, and the lack of story allows one to focus on what’s really important: the puzzles themselves.
Navigating the world of Qbeh-1 is as simple as walking about and jumping, with only two additional inputs required: picking up a block and placing a block. You start the game with only a basic red block to use, which you can use as a step to reach a higher platform. Blocks can also be placed on top of each other, creating increasingly elaborate stairs and pathways that are needed to progress further. New blocks are introduced in each new world, which can be used as keys to unlock doorways or can create a field of low gravity, among other uses. The different kinds of blocks help to keep things interesting throughout, and help to keep things mentally challenging.
It didn’t occur to me until I was halfway through the second world in Qbeh-1 is that the puzzles by themselves aren’t that particularly special. The puzzles involve simple navigation and block placement when you start thinking about them, and without the environmental design and music they would be rather bland. But alongside the environment and music, the puzzles become much more enjoyable and intellectually rewarding. In a way, Qbeh-1 is like meditation: serene, calming with the ability to create concentration.
Losing me softly
The environment, as stated earlier, is made up of cubes floating in the sky. The cubes are uniformly grey, lightened by whichever color the sky is in each world. The first world looks as though it takes place in the middle of the day, hence the clear blue sky, while the second is a light orange and so on so forth. While there isn’t much variety to the worlds beyond the color of the sky and setup of the cubes, it reinforces a feeling of calm, one that you can’t help but get lost in while playing. And you can’t help but wonder why exactly the world is the way it is.
The music is another key component, one which is perhaps the most important part of the game even if it is relatively simple. For the most part the music is a piano softly playing notes as you walk, with other instruments popping in and out of the score for good measure. It too creates a calming sensation, frequently causing me to focus so intently on the game that I forgot about the world around me. That’s a rarity for a game to accomplish, and the simplest way that the music can be described is that it’s very, very well made.
The more I think about Qbeh-1, the more I appreciate it for what it is. It’s not trying to be the next great puzzle game with an innovative storyline or wholly original gameplay. It’s not trying to be funny, nor is it trying to be a retro callback to the games of yesteryear. It is simply a puzzle game involving blocks that can be manipulated. It’s peaceful, intellectually rewarding, and of all things a stress reliever. Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube, is great.
Simple yet rewarding puzzles, great environment and music
A bit short, worlds are too similar