Cubism Review: A VR Puzzle Game With All The Right Pieces
In classic puzzle game form, Cubism is simple to understand but increasingly hard to master. But do its pieces fit together to form a perfect shape? Here’s our review of Cubism, available for Oculus Quest and PC VR.
The basic premise of Cubism is as simple as it gets: you are presented with a wireframe of a 3D shape and several smaller blocks in varying (and sometimes odd) shapes. All you have to do is fit the blocks into the wireframe, making sure every space is covered, nothing sticks out of the frame and every block is used. Easy, right?
If you’ve heard of Cubism before, it’s probably in relation to controller-free hand tracking. A small demo of the game was available on SideQuest last year, with controller-free hand tracking support added when the feature was still in beta and very few other games supported it. The demo was great fun at the time, but in many ways might have sold Cubism a bit short. While the core gameplay is the same as that demo (excluding hand tracking support, which isn’t available at launch), the real meat of the game comes in the later levels. And trust me, it’s a lot more engaging, and more difficult, than you might expect.
The levels are split into different sections, each focusing on a different shape type or theme as the basis for the wireframe. They start as flat shapes, then progress to folds, then pyramids, then a 3×3 cube and so on, each getting increasingly more complex.
The first few levels of each section ease you in, but the last two or three are always much harder. As you progress through each section, the overall difficulty gradually increases as well. I was convinced that the difficultly ceiling couldn’t be that high for a concept so simple, but I was very wrong. The campaign won’t last you hours upon hours, but the later levels definitely start taking considerably longer to solve. For some of them, I spent what felt like 20 or 30 minutes just trying out different combinations — I couldn’t tell you the exact time it took, because I became so mesmerized and lost in the game. Depending on how fast you are at solving the puzzles, your play time might vary.
But as the levels get harder, they don’t get more frustrating, which is crucial. It never comes to the point where you want to rip off the headset and give up. For a puzzle game (and as someone who usually has a fairly low tolerance for them), it’s an incredible achievement. The concept of Cubism is so simple and never changes, so the solution always feels just moments away. There is nothing complex about the method of solving the levels — if you can just place the pieces in the right position, you’ve beat the level. That’s it.
It’s this simplicity that is key to why the game works so well — you feel like you’re always about to make a breakthrough, even if you won’t actually solve the puzzle for another 10 minutes. There were several moments where I became almost possessed by Cubism, falling into a flow state where I just had to keep going until I found the right combination.
The levels fall perfectly into the ‘pick up and play’ category of VR. This is a game that you can easily jump into for 10 minutes to solve one or two puzzles. It really hits the sweet spot of a relaxing yet challenging VR game that doesn’t require much physicality or time.
The only real frustration I had was that positioning a block will sometimes require you twisting your arm into a strange position in order get it into the orientation you want. It’s an incredibly minor issue (and one that the advanced controls, detailed further down, attempt to fix) but it still felt odd at times. You do have a huge degree of control over the orientation of the wireframe itself, which you can rotate and position however you want, but that doesn’t alleviate the sometimes-awkward one-handed positioning of a block.
Another key piece in the Cubism puzzle is the soundtrack, which is absolutely perfect. It’s simple, light and slow classical piano, which creates a relaxing and calming atmosphere. The music even fades out when you go to slot in the last piece of a level, ready to play the celebration music if you’ve got it right.
The piano theme carries through the whole game — menu selections are accompanied by piano motifs, and placing a block in an invalid space will be brought to your attention by a soft ding of a piano note. It all feels very cohesive and is super effective at setting the mood.
Custom Controls and Hand Tracking
While the game can be played straight out of the box with no problems, there’s some nice customization options available too. There’s advanced controls (that let you rotate blocks with your joystick) and a dark mode, which changes the white background to a dark grey, if you want to avoid late-night eye strain.
Despite the SideQuest demo, Cubism will launch on Quest without support for hand tracking. However, an improved version of hand tracking support is planned to arrive in a future release. It will be a welcome addition for the Quest version of the game, and might provide a solution for some of those positioning quirks I mentioned earlier.
Everything about Cubism feels consistent and rock solid. It runs like a dream on the Quest, and the puzzles scratch that itch of being easy to understand but increasingly difficult to solve. The difficultly curve feels perfect and overall there’s very little to complain about. It’s not the longest game in the world, but that also means that the concept doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s also huge potential for DLC expansions in the future.
Just like its puzzles, Cubism is a perfect, complete package where everything fits just right — the minimalist design, the reserved soundtrack and its simple nature all come together to create a really fantastic and polished end product. If you’re a fan of puzzles that put your mind to work, then don’t sleep on Cubism. It might seem basic, but solving each level is infinitely more complex than you’d expect and the satisfaction you get at the end is incredibly rewarding.
Cubism launches September 17 for $9.99 on Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift and SteamVR with support for Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows MR headsets. This review was conducted on an Oculus Quest, using the standalone version of the game. For more on how we arrived at this score, check out our review guidelines. Are you looking forward to Cubism? Let us know in the comments below!
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