I lump Q.U.B.E. in with a few other first-person puzzle games that came out after Portal proved that that can be a successful genre. Like Quantum Conundrum, for example, it wasn’t as brilliant as Valve’s masterpiece, but so few things are. It had fun, clever puzzles, and it didn’t really bother me that it didn’t have a story to tie them together. It was relaxing that way, like playing a really elaborate Sodoku puzzle. But that changes with the release of Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut, hopefully for the better.
I was kinda hoping QUBE's new DLC would introduce a threat to its environments' sterility. Some rusting equipment here, a biohazardous blood spatter over there — you know, something that'd make the puzzler stand out, on first glance, as more than just a Portal wannabe. But hey, even if Against the Qlock isn't teeming with threats to one's health, it sure is stuffed with all of the colors.
If I was nerdy enough to have a "favorite engine," it would probably be the Unreal Engine - not necessarily for its technical achievements (though you can't say it hasn't been pivotal in game development's innovation the past decade), but for its accessibility. The easy-breezy development kit has been especially kind to indies, and because of that, some brilliantly creative games have been built on the engine. Now Steam's flogging an Unreal Indie Bundle, and for $20, it's actually got a pretty admirable selection of games.
Part game, part job application, QUBE is a first-person spatial puzzler set in a series of austere, white-panelled test chambers that you navigate and escape by way of handheld sci-fi gadgetry. It’s a lot like Portal. In fact, it’s pretty much a handwaving bid to become the next Narbacular Drop – the student project that proved so delicious its developers were hurriedly slurped up by Valve Corp.
Just look at Hawken. If ever there was a game that undermined the notion of what an independently developed project can achieve, it’s Adhesive Games’ mech shooter. Every bone in my body tells me a small studio should not be able to pull off such a gorgeous, robot-stomping shooter, but there it is, megabots hanging in the air, spitting rockets at each other across maps that look like they’ve come out of Epic or Valve.
But I’m getting used to indie games surprising me: freedom to create without interference from the men in suits is the reason their developers go into this murky, unfunded realm, trading security for the chance to follow their own path. Every developer in this list has taken the opportunity to make exactly what they want to make, using that freedom to create some startlingly original games that simply wouldn’t be made if they had a deadline to hit and had to justify every decision.
These games only exist because someone passionately wanted to bring them into the world, and it really, really shows.