To people of a certain age, Cube has nothing to do with Philip Schofield forcing housewives from Berkshire to bounce tennis balls into a cylinder, but everything to do with a cult sci-fi film. Released in 1997 the film had one simple premise: lock a bunch of people in a cube filled with traps and see if they can escape. The big twist? The exit from one cube leads in to another identical looking cube with different traps!
It’s quite amazing that no-one has thought of taking that idea and turning it in to a game before now, but that is exactly what Neverout is. Like the film there is no introduction, just some muffled sounds of a scuffle and you’re dropped in to the first cube to see if you can get to the exit.
The cubes you find yourself can also move. Gravity keeps you down on the floor as you walk around, but if face and walk into one of the walls, the entire cube rotates forward. What was once the wall in front of you becomes the floor.
The first few puzzles involving revolving the cube so that heavy blocks move with the changing direction of gravity, forming platforms that allow you to reach the exit. You do have to be a bit careful as rotating the cube the wrong direction could mean the blocks slide on to your head and kill you, resetting the cube. As you progress the puzzles add new elements such as sticky pads to hold the blocks, electrified pads, and teleporters, so there’s a touch of Portal thrown into the mix as well.
Whereas most puzzle games let you see all the elements at once, because you are inside the puzzle itself Neverout is going to tax your grey cells. You have to think ahead and remember the location of all the puzzle elements, trying to work out what will slide where when you flip the cube. Although you can play the game on the telly, playing with PlayStation VR, Vive or Oculus Rift gives you a significant advantage in that you can easily look around and make sure you’re not about to be squashed by a sliding block of metal. The graphics are clean and simple, and the audio is similarly functional; it works well enough.
However, as a fan of the Cube movie, I’m a little frustrated because with a slightly bigger budget Neverout could be really good. The movie worked because you had multiple characters figuring out what was going. There was a story and later sequels expanded that mythology, but without that, Neverout is a sterile experience. You’re just dumped in the cubes without any incentive to escape other than it’s the only thing to do. The game really could have done with some voiceover work, an unseen antagonist mocking the hapless player when the fail, teasing the reasons why you are locked up.
Neverout takes a simple premise and packs it into a small package. With just a few hours of playtime, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but there’s not much variation to the puzzles and it could have done with a story. Puzzle fiends should definitely take a look, especially if they own a VR headset.
Version tested: PS4, PSVR
Also available for PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Nintendo Switch, Pico