I don’t really watch video game shows or streamers. If you want the snarky response, I’d say that I prefer to play games rather than watch them, but that’s not really true. I don’t watch much of anything, regardless of it’s TV or movies. I’m too busy playing video games.
There’s one exception to this, and that’s GameCenter CX, a Japanese video game show that started in 2003 and still runs today. Something of a precursor to the various skits and shows today, it involves a comedian named Shinya Arino as he tackles a wide variety of retro games. The joy comes from the dramatic focus on his struggles. He has his successes, but even after two decades of hosting the show, he’s really not that great.
I love it because it’s a great way to discover games from Japan. Beyond that is the usual parasocial reasons. I sometimes like playing the games “alongside” Arino, experiencing them as he does. One of the more recent examples is a Playstation game called I.Q.: Intelligent Qube. It’s a game I did experience in my youth, but it was such a perfect fit for the show’s dramatic embellishments that I felt compelled to play it again.
I didn’t own a PlayStation when I was younger. Most of my experience with it comes from playing on a friend’s. He had a demo disc, which I.Q.: Intelligent Qube was demonstrated on. I didn’t really get it back then. Having it flanked by games like Crash Bandicoot and Parappa the Rapper was pretty distracting.
Intelligent Qube is a puzzle game that drops you on the field. Imagine playing Tetris while trying not to get crushed by the tetrominoes. You’re placed on a grid-like runway, and a horde of qubes try to run you down. You need to drop bomb tiles to clear them to get through. The strategy goes deeper than just survival, however. Ideally, you clear as many blocks as you can while avoiding the black “forbidden qubes.” Allowing too many good qubes to fall off the edge or destroying a forbidden qube will slice a row of blocks off the runway, giving you less room to maneuver. There are also green qubes that will clear out a 3×3 row and can be detonated separately from your normal bomb block.
That’s the whole of it, but in practice, it’s a lot more hectic than it sounds. There are a lot of tense moments when you’re running out of room, and a lot of thought is needed to clear the sets of blocks as efficiently and safely as possible.
Intelligent Qube is a play on the concept of Intelligence Quotient, which is a measurement of how superior or inferior someone should feel in comparison to others. From a psychological standpoint, I can see the reasoning for having a metric for measuring intelligence, but I’ve never had someone tell me about their I.Q. without it being an insufferable way of explaining why they’re insufferable. I don’t need something like that to feel superior to everyone else. I do perfectly well with my undiagnosed stupidity.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be smart to play Intelligent Qube. While it may bake your noodle at times, it actually leans heavier on the typical video game tenants of pattern recognition, situational awareness, and reaction speed. There’s no need to do any math or articulate good. Thank goodness. You can get by on your beefy thumbs and ability to concentrate for short periods at a time.
Arino wasn’t very good at it. While he’s had a lot of success with puzzle games in the past, it took him 15 hours, and 30 minutes to clear Intelligent Qube on the easiest difficulty. That was part of my reason for playing it. It didn’t look that difficult to me. Surely I could complete it on medium (difficulty level 3).
I did. I’m just great, I guess. Worship me.
Intelligent Qube feels great. Not only did I get to feel superior to Arino for completing it with less difficulty, it feels like it’s designed to make you feel like the smartest person in the room. If you manage to clear every block without destroying a forbidden qube, a voice cuts in to declare, “perrrrfect!” I need to hear that more often.
Not only that, but did you know I have an I.Q. of 205!? Shocking, I know. It might also possibly be 15, but let’s ignore all the less positive outcomes.
One of the major differences between Arino’s level-1 difficulty and my big-brained level-3 is that easier difficulty levels place an arrow above your bombs that can be seen through the blocks. On harder difficulties, you have to mentally remember where your bombs are to detonate them safely. It makes a huge difference and adds an entire level of challenge. Intelligent Qube defaults to level-1, so maybe keep that in mind.
Intelligent Qube also features a bizarrely amazing soundtrack that makes your blockbusting feel like the most crucial job in the world. Most of it sounds like John Williams wrote the score for the loss of his virginity. I don’t know what the stakes are in this frantic game of block detonation, but I can tell you that I’m a hero for avoiding those forbidden qubes. The soundtrack makes that clear.
A sequel called I.Q. Final would be released in Japan and Europe, and two more would be exclusive to Japan. I’m not sure how you can expand on Intelligent Qube’s mechanics, but I’m definitely interested in finding out.
I actually really enjoyed Intelligent Qube as a grown-up who’s already played Parappa the Rapper and Crash Bandicoot. It captivates the mind like a Rubix Cube rigged to explode. The abstract, early-3D graphics, and reverberating sound effects lock you in a trance as you eliminate the vile hexahedrons. It’s fortunate that it’s one of the few PS1 games made readily available by Sony on their digital platforms. Maybe try it out and immediately feel better about yourself. Or substantially worse. The same sort of effects that knowing your actual Intelligence Quotient can have.