Quantum Conundrum Review
Quantum Conundrum is the latest game from Kim Swift, the mastermind behind Valve’s mega-hit Portal, and Airtight Games. This first person, physics based puzzler will have you switching between dimensions, picking up safes, and sailing through the air on couches as you try to solve the cleverly designed puzzles laid out before you in each level.
You play as a 10 year old boy who is the nephew of professor Fitz Quadwrangle, an eccentric inventor. Every year the boy’s mother drops him off for the summer at his uncles house, but this year is different. Upon entering his home, you are greeted by the disembodied voice of Quadwrangle. Somehow he has wound up in the dimension where all of our lost item (socks, cell phones, etc.) are collected, deep inside the mansion.
Being guided by your uncle, you will soon receive the IDS device or Inter-Dimensional Shift Device. With this device you are able to switch between 5 dimensions; the normal dimension, Fluffy, Heavy, Slo-Mo, and Reverse Gravity. Switching between dimensions not only changes the physics of the world around you, but the visual presentation as well.
The Fluffy dimension causes everything to become ten times lighter. Switching into this dimension will allow you to pick up items that before were way too heavy. For instance, you may have to power a pressure plate which can only be activated with a safe. A safe of course is far too heavy for a ten year old boy to lift, so you switch into the Fluffy dimension and can now lift it with ease. After placing the safe on the pressure plate, you can now switch back the normal dimension in which the safes weight activates the pressure plate.
The Heavy dimension, as the name suggests, makes everything ten times heavier. Now, items which were easily picked up to begin with, a cardboard box, for instance, becomes impossible to lift. Turning everything to solid metal, items now become indestructible by the many lasers inhabiting the mansion. By compounding upon what we learned with the first available dimension, Fluffy dimension, we can now lift safes onto spring powered launchers, switch to Heavy to weigh it down, and finally switch back to Fluffy to be launched through the air atop a pillowy safe.
The third dimension you are able to use is Slo-Mo. In Slo-Mo you are able to slow everything around you to a crawl. Now, keep in mind, switching between dimensions alters everything in the world, except you. By slowing time, we can now jump across gaps, leaping between objects flying through the air.
And, the last dimension in you arsenal is Reverse Gravity. Basically, everything not bolted to the floor now rises to the ceiling. You can use this dimension to power pressure plates on the ceiling and move items along the bottom of a conveyor belt.
Looking at it, it seems pretty simple. You switch between dimensions to finish each level. What makes it difficult is when you have to start switching between dimensions on the fly. For instance, you come upon a large gap that’s too far for you to jump. What you have to do is find an object, a safe or piece of furniture, and use the Fluffy dimension to pick it up, throw it across the gap, and as it leaves your hands, instantly switch into Slo-Mo so you can jump atop the item and fly across the gap. With me so far? What if there’s a laser at the middle? Then you’d have to switch to Heavy so that the item isn’t destroyed mid-flight.
As you progress through the game, the puzzles become increasingly difficult, adding new challenges and switching up the available dimension you have. See, you’re only able to use the dimensions that have the corresponding IDS battery plugged in to the nearest receptacle. Unfortunately though, you’re not always provided with the best dimension to use for the given situation, meaning you’ll have to work that much harder to find the solution. What may not always be evident at first, may even have you slapping yourself in the head for not seeing the solution sooner. Sometimes, it may be the platforming that’s slapping you in the head though. Having no body makes it very hard for you to tell where you are in relation to another object. Often you’ll be expected to make pinpoint accurate jumps, but it becomes unwieldy at best trying to gauge distance. This caused me much frustration during what seemed like easier puzzles to complete.
With all of it’s cleverly designed puzzles, the game does have it’s drawbacks. Unfortunately, the game suffers from having a poorly written, semi-thrown together story line. The characters are less than memorable, especially your silent, body-less protagonist. Furthermore, Quadwrangle harasses you at every turn, providing useless banter and less-than-hilarious one liners. The games shows that they tried so hard to be funny in every moment, however it just didn’t happen. The parts of the game that were the funniest, to me, was when I died. After dying you will be presented with an excerpt from a list of things you will never experience, with you being a ten year old kid and all. Honestly, I could have done without any type of story and would have rather just played the game. That would have made this experience much better.
Despite the lack of character’s that invoke any feeling of want or need, Quantum Conundrum is an experience that I wouldn’t pass up. The game features some great, very clever puzzles, but suffers from an annoying, ever present commentator. The graphics, though simple, are a perfect fit for the cartooney world. With a price tag of only $15 it’s definitely worth the few troubles I had with it.
Nizulo scores this game 7/10
Quantum Conundrum is currently available for download on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows PC.