Quantum Conundrum Review
Microsoft Xbox 360Also available on Sony PlayStation 3
In a game where the sole mechanic revolves around switching between parallel dimensions in real time to proceed on our journey, the ironic realisation now that I write is that dimensions are
not the only ‘parallel’ Quantum Conundrum will have to endure.
Coming from the mind of Kim Swift who brought us Portal, Quantum Conundrum throws you into a rather inventive and sometimes brilliant adventure through Quadrangle Manor and a handful of alternate dimensions. Playing the role of a small boy dropped off at your eccentric but brilliant uncle’s house for reasons unknown - presumably because you have been a bad lad and need some quiet time (hehe if only) - you find your uncle in the middle of an experiment deep in the mansion which goes awry pretty quick, leaving your uncle trapped in another dimension and you alone in Quadrangle Manor. Your uncle then proceeds to direct you through his house (via radio contact) to help him escape his kooky prison, armed with your uncles IDS device (Interdimension shift device to you and me) which is a handy little glove (very large pun intended there) invented by your uncle which allows you to swap dimensions at will.
This sounds familiar - being directed by a disembodied voice through a strange and wacky place full of unique obstacles with extremely powerful dimension manipulation technology.
As mentioned Quantum Conundrum will constantly be compared to its spiritual predecessor due to the fact it is very similar in design and execution. Once you get over that you should have a whale of a time with Quantum Conundrum as it is rather brilliant. The dimension shifting hook of the game is a very well implemented and obviously all the puzzles have been crafted with great care to fully leverage the (quantum) mechanics.
Quantum Conundrum follows a normal gaming pattern such that you start out with a limited number of dimensions to play with, but progression rewards you with new more interesting dimensions and more skills in your journey to liberate your uncle. The dimensions you have at your disposal are a little predictable, you have a fluffy dimension where everything turns ten times lighter than your normal dimension. A heavy dimension which gives the opposite, while later in the game you acquire the slow dimension and also a reverse gravity dimension. All these dimensions are a little underwhelming when you look at them on paper but the real charm of Quantum Conundrum isn’t the dimensions themselves it is more the way in which the dimensions and puzzles have been crafted together to convey a totally new experience.
Unlike Portal where the aim was to circumnavigate the puzzle or area with your portal gun, you have to use the dimensions to interact with and manipulate the puzzle rooms. You are given a number of objects to manipulate within Quadrangle Manor. You have safes, cardboard boxes and other bits and bobs to use in your endeavour but these things are actually the star of the show.
An example would be picking up a safe with your bare hands in fluffy dimension only to hurl it across the room and slow time to allow you to catch a ride on the airborne object to the platform on the other side, albeit an advance example but combine that with reversed gravity and you can have a lot of fun. I won’t spoil any more puzzles or scenarios as there are plenty more insane ways to progress through Quantum Conundrum and even more opportunity for you to crack the same puzzle from a different angle if you are up for the challenge.
Your aim is to make your way through Quadrangle Manor to a generator in each wing which will help lift an automatic lockdown brought into effect when your uncle dropped a clanger earlier. You have the help of Ike a small fluffy fellow who pops up around the house bringing you an interdimensional battery every now and again, these batteries are used to power your IDS device along with a fabulous invention called science juice which your uncle elaborates on as you venture around his home. Sometimes you will find yourself without a dimension or two when tackling later puzzles (as the science juice supply and batteries may be limited in that area) but that all adds to the challenge and keeps things fresh as you can’t rely on all of your dimensions all of the time.
One highlight for us at the digitial fix was a puzzle room where you had to choose the dimension with which you had to start with, then you had to earn the rest through the course of the room. This drastically changed the way in which you had to tackle the room depending on your initial choice and was a shining moment for Quantum Conundrum. The rest of the game is great but you get the feeling that the development team ran out of ideas at points and had to recycle earlier gameplay mechanisms. The feeling that the inclusion of a few more objects to play with or multiple routes to complete a puzzle room could have given Quantum Conundrum a large head start in the creativity department.
The presentation is also a very big talking point; the developers have opted for a cartoon style which gives the game a more fitting tone and charm, while also being full of colour which makes a refreshing change to the dreary browns and greys of your usual triple A title. The design reflects the tone with the intricate environments showing the designer’s talents, especially the science juice tubes snaking around the manor. The environments are very easy on the eye and will have you stopping to look at the complex pieces of machinery and paintings hung on the walls of the manor, a special mention for the paintings which will reflect what dimension you are currently in giving you a giggle or two. The great John De Lancie (The omnipotent Q from Star Trek) plays the part of your uncle and takes to the role with aplomb, his many quips and jokes will raise a smile but they may never compare to the belly laughs found in Quantum Conundrum’s older half brother. The sound design is good and is very fitting for the style of the game but not over the top with whizz bang sounds or chintzy music.
The inclusion of achievements and the option to jump straight back into your favourite puzzle are welcomed with open arms as the score attack challenges are rather addictive. You are also rewarded with some collectables within the main campaign for you collection junkies out there, one set of trinkets will give you access to your uncle’s central laboratory which is another extended puzzle room allowing you to continue your mental acrobatics with some new challenges.
After my time with Quantum Conundrum I feel I must recommend it as I had such a great time; the mind benders will stump you then wrap you up in a warm fuzzy sense of satisfaction, the charm of the art style and John De Lancie’s superb performance are something that has to be experienced by any gamer. With the consideration that these games will always fall into the same pitfalls of repetition and limited scope initially but given time I believe that Airtight Games can and hopefully will increase the horizons of Quantum Conundrum. Is it a quantum leap in Puzzle gaming? I’m afraid not but it is one of the best puzzle games to appear on the market in a long time and should stand proud as a brilliant accompaniment to Valve’s masterpiece.