Taking a look at the screenshots, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re covering Minecraft with a fancy texture pack and shader plugin. In fact, what you’re witnessing with your optical organs is the first-person puzzler Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube, another in a long line of games in this genre following in the wake of Portal. And while it may not be as ground-breaking as Valve’s quintessential experiment in deadpan wit, there’s certainly a lot to love here.
Qbeh-1 has a vague, otherwordly quality to it: players are placed within a blocky structure high above the Earth and have to navigate towards a luminescent exit. In order to achieve this end, you’ll have to pick up glowing cubes and use them as makeshift platforms and steps, placing them in key spots on the floor and in the walls.
Picking up and placing blocks may sound an awful lot like Minecraft, but what we have here instead is a unique 3D platformer with an eye to getting your cognitive juices flowing. First and foremost, the number of usable cubes is severely limited, and players often have to resort to exploring to find more or reusing the same cubes over and over. Secondly, they may only be placed on certain surfaces, ensuring that players have to maximize their creative thinking with very limited space and resources.
Adding variety to the mix are cubes with different properties that are gradually introduced as the game progresses. One such example is a blue cube which acts like a switch; placing it in corresponding spots will open doors or activate moving platforms. Another cube type exerts a low-gravity aura around itself when placed, allowing players to pull off otherwise impossible jumps. These are used in limited instances, but they help keep gameplay fresh and break up potential monotony.
One thing Qbeh-1 does very well is secrets, and every single level has something to share. Hidden throughout are “tokens” (through which diligent collectors are treated to achievements, bragging rights and unlockables), and finding their locations can be excessively tricky, even early on in the game and even for seasoned players. They require a keen eye and meticulous attention to detail, especially since the levels tease players will all manner of dead ends and hints of hidden rooms just beyond holes in the walls.
I never once found myself getting frustrated or bored during my run in this game. The beautiful, peaceful locations and the soothing, abstract ambient music all work well towards creating a very Zen-like experience. It’s like something out of a dream, and the sense of surreal loneliness makes Qbeh-1‘s world something you don’t mind getting lost in.
Qbeh-1 won’t go down in history as revolutionary and it’s likely to get lost in a sea of similar titles, but it deserves so much more than that. You can get this atmospheric puzzler on Steam here for a measly $9.99. If you’re not quite ready to part with your cash, a demo is available. PC and Mac users alike can get into the cube-placing action, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.