|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
The PlayStation's game library is an eclectic one, from fighters to role-players to racers. Intelligent Qube, from Sony, is a welcome contribution to the oft-overlooked puzzle genre.
I.Q. drops players onto a rectangular field, anywhere from four to seven squares across. Cubes steadily roll toward the player, and can be destroyed by marking the square onto which one is about to move. Black cubes must be left alone to roll off the edge into oblivion, while green "bomb" cubes provide an opportunity to clear away many pieces simultaneously. Perfect execution of a level will extend the game field, creating a bigger margin for error; mistakes cause it to shrink. Too many errors and players will fall off the field's edge with the cubes, resulting in a game over.
I.Q. progresses through nine stages, each consisting of about twelve waves of cubes. Each wave consists of a different configuration of cubes, drawn randomly from the game's memory, so one level will look different each time. Relative difficulty setting, including cube speed, can be set in the options. The most noticeable oversight is the inability to start anywhere but on level one, which is more of a warm-up for experienced players than a test of wits. Getting to where the fun starts is a commitment to a long gaming session. Overall, the varying degrees of challenge, plus the ability for players to create and save their own puzzles, generates a high level of replay value.
I.Q.'s graphics are nothing to gawk at. The cubes are available in several textures, but some blend with the playing field in a confusing manner. The camera slowly swings left and right for appropriate views of the action; other similar camera views are available, but are too wild and fast-moving. Fortunately, graphics have rarely been the focus of puzzle games; Tetris blocks aren't spectacular, either.
Nintendo's Tetrisphere set a new standard for music in puzzle games, and I.Q. doesn't fall short. Its four main tunes are divine combinations of Star Wars and TRON's themes, with some Sherwood Forest thrown in for good measure. An extensive in-game tutorial uses digitized audio to explain all rules and game pieces. The sound effects of the advancing cubes reminds players of their impending doom, and a few squeals from the characters as they get tossed about liven things up.
There are only two essential buttons with which players must become acquainted: mark and capture a cube, and detonate a green piece. A third button increases the cubes' rate of advancement. The differences between these buttons are great, and accidentally pushing the wrong one in the heat of a puzzle is often an unrecoverable gaff. But the functions are few and can be reassigned to other buttons by the player.
Seldom is there an addictive puzzle game that isn't a derivative of Tetris, Columns, or their ilk. First-time players will either be dismayed or amused when their I.Q. rating is in the single digits, but that is the game's challenge to do better. When it comes to Intelligent Qube, this is no puzzle: it's one great game.
This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Feb-98