Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | AND | IOS | PC | PS4 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | All

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) artwork

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) review

"Game of relaxation"

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

The Unity Engine is a wonder, being a window of opportunity for thousands of aspiring game designers to make their mark on the medium and create classics for the ages. It has blessed us with works like Ori & the Blind Forest and Furi, but Unity has also acquired an infamous reputation for being associated with hastily slopped-together abominations from the likes of Digital Homicide. Because Unity's more costly professional tools allow for the disabling of the Unity logo upon starting the game, the best games made with Unity don't advertise it in-game while the garbageware populating Steam do. The inadvisable choice that resulted in the engine being associated with its most inferior creations has given Unity an unfairly negative reputation, so just because you see that Unity logo pop up before gameplay doesn't mean you're in for a frustrating experience. In fact, Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube is the opposite of a frustrating experience, for its soothing aesthetics and solid gameplay result to the most relaxing game I've ever played.

Despite looking a lot like Minecraft, Qbeh is not about spending ungodly amounts of time staring at crafting menus or exploring caves crawling with Eldritch horrors. Rather, it is somewhere between a walking simulator and a puzzle game. The puzzle half is fulfilled as you utilize qbehs, er, cubes to make paths to navigate areas, solve puzzles, and reach the ends of levels. The former half holds the game's art direction, sound design, and tone together to make it an example of how gaming can craft a relaxing yet engaging experience as you discover the game's mechanics.

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) imageQbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

Qbeh's mechanics are instantly identifiable and intuitive; right-click to get a cube, left-click to place it. As in real life, one cannot simply re-appropriate any cube he wants, systematically taking apart environs as Minecraft Steve can. There wouldn't be much game left then. Nor can one place a cube wherever he wishes, bypassing puzzles altogether. There wouldn't be much game left then, either. Cubes can be placed on only yellow tiles and switches, forcing one to focus on a single tree of possibilities to provide a solution to a problem, akin to how Portal 2 reduced the number of tiles that portals could work on in order to clarify what elements of the environment were in play and challenge players to think within certain confines.

A sizable portion of Qbeh's gameplay relates to navigation and movement. The crumbling floating structures comprising the levels reveal doors, cubes, and other points of interest; you just have to get there. Platforming in first-person tends to be spotty since the perspective limits the environmental awareness necessary for such tasks, but Qbeh's physics and level design are accommodating enough to make gaps manageable; the auto-sprint doesn't hurt, either. Even the game's bonus content is part of this navigation-based design, as nooks and crannies hide golden pyramids (which can be counted on the level select menu to track your progress toward unlocking a bonus world) and nifty Easter Eggs, encouraging players to explore and observe their environs.

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

Progression is possible only if cubes scattered about the environment are picked up and used to fulfill some purpose, usually building a navigational structure, such as a bridge or staircase. Enough cubes populate the levels to accommodate unconventional solutions to problems as well as obvious answers. There are multiple cubes with varying functions: orange cubes serve as little more than platforms (although all cubes can fill that role), blue cubes activate machinery, and there are three more types of cubes that add more facets to gameplay. Having limited resources demands economical use of cubes in order to progress; if possible, no cube left behind! Not that you're in a war, best as I can tell.

Speaking of war, there is no combat in this game. There is no story, either, so neither will be a reason to play Qbeh. Qbeh is above all else an acquired taste due to its laid-back tone and design philosophies, but even those looking for a tight gameplay experience may yet find something to enjoy here due to the level design.

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) imageQbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

Qbeh segments its content into worlds and levels, each with its own aesthetic and gameplay nuances to introduce in a steady flow. Place a single cube to progress over a short ledge before laying multiple cubes to create staircases or bridges. You quickly learn that it is unwise to leave cubes behind since they will be useful later on in the level, although level design is flexible enough to reward differing approaches. Placing these concepts early on helps lay the foundation for more advanced techniques later down the road, and doing so without prompts or dialogue gives the player a sense of accomplishment not found often in today's era of spoon-feeding tutorials. Teaching the player mechanics in such a subtle, indirect manner is very impressive to pull without tutorials, especially when taking into consideration the fact the the developers know the game better the players and must put themselves in the shoes of those just learning about these concepts. The player feels the mental accomplishment of learning by discovery, rather than by tedious dictation.

Good pacing allows a puzzle game to be dynamic yet therapeutic in its rewarding nature. This brings us to the other major strength of Qbeh. Few games make for such a relaxing experience! As much context as such a subjective claim demands, I shall attempt to explain in three points.

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

The most immediate aspect of the game is the simple but appealing art design. Each of the five worlds of Qbeh has its own distinct style and personality, and I was always eager to see what the next level had in store. Also, the art direction lends itself to help the level design, a la Portal. Lighting is used excellently to highlight areas of interest and make exploration fun and not tedious. Lit tiles indicate the location of hidden blocks, and lines of lit or specially colored blocks associate switches with what they activate. This rewards observation and makes searches less necessary, though you'll want to take in the sights regardless.

Levels and gameplay are accompanied by sound design that is communicative and pleasant. From the "ping!" of activating a switch to the muffled crunch of a block being placed on a yellow grid, every sound effect in Qbeh is pleasing to hear and gives an immediate connection to onscreen actions. Even better is the soundtrack, which has some of the most relaxing music I've ever heard; Qbeh is one game that's easy on the ears.

Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube (PC) image

Even gameplay itself possesses an oddly soothing effect. The game is simply relaxing to play while still offering a worthy challenge. You've no worries of having enemies kill you, no deadlines to meet; just take your time, think things through, and enjoy the music and scenery while doing so. When playing Qbeh, I reach a balance of mental stimulation and relaxation that few other games can offer.

Qbeh-1: the Atlas Cube was made by only about half a dozen people, all of whom obviously put their hearts and souls into their work while not skimping on content. They also immortalized their product with in-game modding tools and a Steam Workshop group. I always dread the feeling of knowing that there's nothing more a game has to offer, but Qbeh's custom content will save it from reaching such a fate for some time.

Of course, this is a game that deserves to stay around for a while.


Follow_Freeman's avatar
Community review by Follow_Freeman (July 08, 2018)

When he isn't in a life-or-death situation, Dr. Freeman enjoys playing a variety of video games. From olden shooters to platformers & action titles: Freeman may be a bit stuck with the games of the past, but he doesn't mind. Some things don't age much.

More Reviews by Follow_Freeman [+]
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PlayStation 2) artwork
Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) artwork
Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation)

The best was yet to come.
Half-Life 2 (PC) artwork
Half-Life 2 (PC)

Changing the rules, stepping back, leaping forward, and raising the bar.


If you enjoyed this Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Policies/Ethics | Contact | Sponsor Site | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2019 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.