Qbeh: the Atlas Cube
There is brick palace floating in the air. Your goal is to get to the other end of it and perhaps discover a hidden golden pyramid on your way. Yet your path is impossible to traverse as it exists, so you use blocks to build stairs and stepping stones to get you through. Other blocks act as power generators for doors and elevators. And still other blocks lessen gravity in a certain area or float you across a chasm or though a hole in the ceiling. You must get through six levels to make it through an entire world. And six worlds make up the game. This is Qbeh.
Q-beh is a first-person puzzle platformer. But unlike most games, it doesn’t bother trying to create a narrative. The goal of the game is to solve the puzzles. Some reviews I’ve seen mark this as a detriment, but I find it wonderfully relaxing. I like stories, but I’ve gotten a bit tired of the bombastic storytelling in most popular video games. Qbeh dispenses with narrative. It merely provides a beautiful set of worlds to traverse and ponder. And it’s this serenity coupled with the increasing complexity of the puzzles that make me love this game.
That increasing complexity stood out to me as I played. This game is incredibly well paced. The learning curve is shallow, but steady. Each level feels harder than the one before it, with the final world being the most challenging. That being said, nothing here is overly difficult, except perhaps finding where the hidden golden pyramid is in each level (which is not necessary for completing the game).
The worlds themselves do seem fairly similar after awhile, at least visually. But again, Qbeh is about the puzzles. I found the new challenges presented by each puzzle always made me stop and think, and no two puzzles were exactly alike. Even if certain elements looked the same, the solution was never similar. So while one level may look like a previous one, the process of how to get through the level is never the same.
The quibble I have with the game concerns its checkpoint system. Basically, in any given level you reach a series of checkpoints from which you can restart the game. However, you can only restart from the last checkpoint you reached; you cannot start from a previous one in the same level. This got to be a problem in the later worlds when I was looking for the golden pyramid. Sometimes I’d backtrack and signal a checkpoint only then to get stuck. At such points, my only recourse was to restart the level entirely. Also, it would have been nice if the checkpoints actually saved your progress. If you quit the game and come back to it later the checkpoints are lost and you have to restart the level. This wasn’t a huge problem, but it did annoy me sometimes when life got in the way and I had to abandon playing a level.
These drawbacks aside, I really recommend this game. It provides a pretty world and some nice mental challenges. And as a parent, it’s a game I can play and not have to turn off when my eleven-year-old daughter walks into the room. In fact, it’s a game she can play herself.
(written June 27, 2015)