By Armita Rohani
Cube Escape, a thriller puzzle game, dives deep into the murder of “The Woman”. Or is she really dead? You join Detective Vandermeer in solving this unsolvable case in a ten-level story looking through the past, present, and future, along with the perspectives of several other characters that show you what really is in store. Filled with thriller, horror, and mystery elements, this game is addictive and drives you to think outside the box. Warning: this contains major spoilers.
Laura Vanderboom has been found dead in her home, but is she truly dead? As you navigate through different timelines and events, finding a series of cubes, her lifeless corpse can be found everywhere. Not only that, a corrupted soul, responsible for her death, follows you. But who is he, really?
“The Seasons” is the first level of the game and takes you through four different time periods, each correlating with its own season. You need to find all of the pieces of the photo and a colored cube in order to be transported to the next season. Each is either hidden, or you must solve puzzles with what you have to obtain them. With horrid graphics, such as a woman being brutally stabbed on the moon and a window filled with blood, this game will keep you far from bored. The corrupted soul will make sure you are never alone, and through interactive gameplay and time travel, combining everything from all of the timelines, you finally get a hint as to who this woman truly is, as well as who you are.
“The Lake”: After finding an abandoned cabin at Rusty Lake, you need to fish to find several clues and objects that will complete “the tree.” After fishing a drowned body out of the water and getting a surprise greeting from the corrupted soul, as well as searching through hidden parts of the cabin, you get all the objects you need: the diamond, the apple, the eye, the shell, and the coin. The tree reveals a figure, and as it rises up the lake, it takes you to your next destination. Coincidentally, however, it is the same figure you saw on the moon…
“Arles” takes you back to 1888, set in Van Gogh’s bedroom, of all places. As you collect and assemble the pieces of two of his paintings, you are rewarded with a sunflower and a key, which opens the door and gives you a pallet. One thing leads to another and in the end, you watch Van Gogh cut his own ear off, and you go through its canal, presenting you with another room. Through a series of trials and codes, you are transported back to Van Gogh’s bedroom, this time with a revolver in hand. One look in the mirror, and you see the corrupted soul, shooting itself in the head, giving you one of the cubes you need to get out. The other you get from “the painting,” allowing you to make your way out into the starry night.
“Harvey’s Box” is told from the perspective of Harvey the parrot. You’re back to a more suitable time period of 1969. From combs that play music to stairwells that show you yourself, you need to find your way out of the box and into the open air. This level is more puzzle centered, with “sudoku” flies, a wine glass of music, and two figures (a sneak peek of Mr. Crow) that reveal to you a rope. Opening the box, the corrupted soul comes at you and promptly disappears, leaving only a black cube. No matter where you are, the corrupted soul is always with you, bringing the murder case only closer.
“Case 23” has four chapters, finally bringing you to the murder scene. In this case, there is more than just a dead body, with the painting Bedroom in Arles giving tribute to the Arles level, as well as four labels, leaving you a phone number and a conversation with an eerie voice, telling you your place has already been taken. When the call is up, however, the dead body that was on the ground is now hanging from the ceiling. You move on to the next chapter, the investigation, taking you to the detective’s office. Familiar faces collide again, as a prisoner turns out to be the corrupted soul, hanging a fellow officer and—with a cleverly placed jumpscare—leaves you with another black cube. An interaction with the dead woman gives you another cube, leading you to the chapel. Here is where you meet Mr. Crow, first introduced in Harvey’s box, as he takes you to the cabin on the lake. You must move hastily in the cabin, for the corrupted soul is on your doorstep, making you escape through an elevator as blood and mystery follow you.
“The Mill”: After escaping death, you enter the windmill, using the old woman who lives in the cabinet to knit you tools out of yarn. Upstairs, a cow, a clock, and a T.V. await you. The T.V. shows the hanging body of the woman from “Case 23”, and the clock opens to reveal to you her corpse, the one that should have been at the police station… The next thing you know, the old woman is dead and the cow has been beheaded, and the corrupted soul tells you, “There will be blood.”
“Birthday” brings detective Vandermeer to his 9th birthday party, the worst day of his life, while his memories are captured in little cubes. A rabbit in a suit breaks in and brutally shoots his parents and grandfather, telling young Vandermeer that “he had no choice.” Through a series of puzzles and jumpscares and a reference to “Arles” by Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting, a snow globe holds all the answers Vandermeer needs. Through advice from Mr. Owl, he obtains a watch, and with his present, is able to rewind time to when his family was alive. The eeriest part of this level is when he gives his (now alive) grandfather a gun, and he tells Vandermeer that he is “ready.” The rabbit returns, just like last time. However, this time, his grandfather shoots it before he could kill them all. The father replies, “How did you know?”…
“Theatre”: Now back in the present, Vandermeer finds himself in a theater run by Rusty Lake. Through several encounters with Laura’s lover, you obtain a diverse number of tools and cubes, all through his brain and memories. The light turns on and the show begins, presenting six plays about the past, present, and future, all hosted by Mr. Owl himself. Through a creepy encounter with the corrupted soul in the mirror, working through the puzzles each play brings, and seeing Laura Vanderboom’s neck be slit and her corpse fall onto the stage, you are finally greeted by the host. Mr. Owl tells you that his memories “belong to the lake now” and that the extraction of them caused a corrupted soul. The man he refers to is Laura’s lover, as he turns black and dead right before your eyes, following you on your journey.
“The Cave”: Shown through the perspective of Mr. Crow, you are now inside a cave somewhere by the lake, where you get an insight as to who the Vanderbooms truly were, as well as a clue to the motive of Laura’s murder. Like “Harvey’s Box”, this level is highly puzzle based and involves a more creative approach and experimentation. Clues line up to reveal that Mr. Crow is part of the Vanderboom family. More puzzles lead to more tools being obtained, and duct tape helps you connect a helmet to an oxygen tank, “reviving” a man who wears a scuba suit. He tells you to gather all the memories and go into the depths of the lake. Now aboard a submarine, you must navigate through the vast locations of the lake to obtain all the cubes. Once you obtain one, you see the memories that it holds, including Laura by the lake, her blood smeared on the wall to write out, “There will be blood.” After reaching all three destinations, the submarine breaks down, and you leave and enter a white room that contains Laura’s corrupted body and the detective, unconscious. Using the cubes you had found, you use both of their memories to create a large, golden one, giving it to Vandermeer, after which he leaves through the elevator.
“The Paradox”: Vandermeer wakes up in a room, unaware of where he is, and the corpse of the woman is always in the corner of his eye. After a brief amount of searching, a record tells you to look to channel 669 on the T.V. Greeted by a more realistic version of Vandermeer, you switch between channels until you reach channel 67, which tells you to call number 14355. A jumpscare visit of Laura gets you a key, leading to puzzle after puzzle, until suddenly, you turn into a corrupted soul. What saves you is rearranging your memories of how this entire story had once played out, but that isn’t the end of creepy encounters with the corrupted. A dead Laura Vanderboom is behind a curtain, and rearranging her cycloptic face gives you your last piece of evidence: a dress patch. With all the evidence from Case 23 at hand, a key opens the front door, past which you must navigate through the hazy, dead forest, where you get three statues. You unlock the gate and make your way towards the lake, where you see the corrupted soul slice Laura’s neck, her body collapsing under the water. But that’s not the end, as you wake up in the same yet different room you were in. The structure is similar, yet the painting is different, foreshadowing what’s to come. This is one of the hardest levels in the game, where you need to navigate through the past, present, and future simultaneously, cutting out your own brain to do so. After entering your present mind, you have a conversation with Mr. Crow, who shows you how to obtain your past mind. It takes you to your birthday, and many references are made: the rabbit who was the murderer is now the magician, and he takes you through a series of puzzles that result in your parents’ death, which gives your future mind. In the future, you find cards that reference “The Seasons,” as well as Laura, who tells you, “One of us dies, and the other will be enlightened.” In front of the mirror, you see yourself turn into the corrupted soul, making your way out into the same forest again. This time, however, when you reach the lake, it is you who slices Laura’s neck. The game ends on a cliffhanger, with you waking up in the room once again. This level is so cleverly named, as the truth only seems to be a literal paradox—the more you search for it the farther it is to obtain.
I thought this game was horrifying but also very interesting, and I just couldn’t seem to get my mind off of it. It was filled with such horrid details, some of which are forever stuck in the back of your mind that make you want to keep playing. I found it to be a lot of fun and the interactive gameplay was very interesting. This game makes you think outside the box and use all the resources you have, combining them in a unique way in order to get to the next clue. The horror aspect keeps you on your toes and often makes you dread what’s to come, or what you need to do next. It is all fun and games until the T.V. tells you to “turn around.” Nonetheless, this was one of the greatest thrillers I have ever played and it is definitely worth the time.