Quantum Conundrum

Platforms: PC, PS3, X360
Release Date: June 21, 2012 (PC), July 10 (PS3), July 11 (X360)
Genre: Puzzle, First-Person, Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Airtight Games
Rating: E
Our Score
9.0
VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
User Score:
0 votes
0.0

Quantum Conundrum

 

PressPlay Score 9 Quantum ConundrumDespite similarities to its spiritual predecessor, Quantum Conundrum creates its own personality, and it’s one of the most compelling puzzlers in recent memory- a promising start to what will hopefully become a larger series.

 

You'll see this scenario differently after playing Quantum Conundrum.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: if you like first-person puzzling, you should get your hands on Quantum Conundrum. Creative Director Kim Swift has explored this territory before (she was one of the original creators of Portal) and it shows, from the game’s superbly polished levels and well-utilized mechanics to its quirky characters and distinct visual style. Despite similarities to its spiritual predecessor, Quantum Conundrum creates its own personality, and it’s one of the most compelling puzzlers in recent memory- a promising start to what will hopefully become a larger series.

Our story begins with a young boy dropped off at the mansion of his scientist uncle (voice of John de Lancie, Star Trek’s Q), who has accidentally transported himself to some sort of nether-realm in an experiment gone awry. Players must take control of the unnamed boy and navigate the mansion with an Inter-dimensional Shift Device (shortened to IDS), as the uncle narrates from his unknown location. While there is a building mystery throughout, the story is deceptively thin, and players expecting a Portal-esque tonal shift are likely to be disappointed. Where the conspiracy was the main attraction in Portal’s story, Professor Quadwrangle and his mansion are the focal point in Quantum’s fiction, making it more about the atmosphere around the puzzles than a narrative inter-weaving with the puzzles themselves. It’s a different sort of storytelling, but it quickly becomes easy to love Quadwrangle’s character as you learn more about his escapades.

There's no shortage of safes in this game.

It’s all about shifting between dimensions in Quantum Conundrum, and like any good puzzle experience, you will come out of this game with a new outlook on problem solving. The four different dimensions accessible by the IDS device (powered by aptly named “Science Juice”) are all useful for accomplishing different goals, and are perfectly balanced so none feel underutilized. Fluffy Dimension makes everything ten times lighter, letting players pick up heavy safes and other furniture. Conversely, Heavy Dimension makes everything, well, heavier, letting cardboard boxes weigh down pressure plates or break through windows. These two dimensions are at the core of the puzzle solving and are the first to be introduced. When the Slow-Motion Dimension and eventually Reverse Gravity Dimension are brought out, it becomes clear in just how many inventive ways the world can be manipulated. By the finale, levels are using all four dimensions in tandem, including one brilliant stage that forces players to start with just one dimension of the player’s choosing to collect the rest, giving four possible ways to advance.

The strong visual style is an important aspect of why this game is successful: the clean, angular environments and clear aesthetic differences in dimensions make it easy to traverse smoothly and master the basic concept of dimension-swapping without unnecessary confusion. Conspicuously absent are even the most basic graphic tweaking options (something that has PC gamers crying foul), although the game seems adept enough at detecting the right settings that it’s easy to forgive. Switching between dimensions is visually appealing, one dimension washing over another with a satisfying “whoosh,” and a bit of the game’s personality shines through here, as the paintings change with each dimension in true “spooky mansion” fashion. For example, in a painting of an old woman, her hair will change to a big pink afro in Fluffy Dimension, or the Grim Reaper is creeping behind her in Slow Motion Dimension. Even more of the game’s personality shows in the books littered throughout the mansion, all popular literary titles with science twists. Among my favorites are “Atlas Shifted,” “Henry ^8″ and “David Copper: Field Theory.” Search for the easter egg on the game’s title screen if you’re interested in finding out just how out-there the humor can get.

"IKE" is the game's cute, cuddly and slightly unsettling mascot.

De Lancie does a great job as the absent-minded professor, despite some of his filler lines being a bit bland. His character shines when paintings are featured and players are treated to a story about each piece, including some particular gems about time travel. Quadwrangle isn’t shy about making terrible puns either, which only serve to make his character more endearing. I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle when he spoke of his digging machine called “Everyday I’m Shovelin.’” Death screens feature random quips written by his character as well, morbidly telling you about what you’ll never experience due to your untimely demise. The relationship between Quadwrangle and the boy is one of tentative respect, as he has no choice but to trust the child to help him, creating some pretty funny scenarios. The professor’s cuddly sidekick dubbed IKE, an unknown-species that exists in all dimensions simultaneously, plays a big part in the professor’s stories as well, and though Quadwrangle clearly cares for it more than you, even he admits to finding the little guy creepy. Though the aesthetics suggest a light and family friendly atmosphere, there is clearly a lot for adults to enjoy here as well.

In the heavy dimension, everything looks like it's made of metal.

The story takes somewhere around 8 hours, the timing of which hinges heavily on your ability to solve puzzles. There’s replay value to be had in Quantum Conundrum, though your mileage will vary depending on your interest in high scores. There are leaderboards for competitive players, and an extra room in the main hub of the manor for experimenting with dimensions. The game’s collectibles, called “Awkward Noise Generators,” spew out random sounds (my favorite being one that belts different Wilhelm-esque screams), and are also a good excuse to go back again. Quantum launched with the promise of two DLC packs as well, even offering a subscription up front, so it’s a safe bet that the experience won’t get old too quickly.

Quantum Conundrum is an extremely well-produced puzzle game with some unfortunate baggage- if players can refrain from expecting another Portal-style narrative, there is a lot of fun to be had. The characters are sharp, with a plenty of innovative uses for dimensional shifts that will constantly keep you on your toes. For $15 you’d be hard-pressed to find a game experience quite as interesting and empowering as Quantum Conundrum, and I’m excited to see where this series goes from here.

PressPlay Score 9 Quantum Conundrum

 

Nick Hawryluk is the senior producer, director and editor of Press Play the Webseries. He also runs and contributes articles to the Press Play website.

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  1. [...] Quantum Conundrum Platforms: PC, PS3, X360 Release Date: June 21, 2012 Genre: Puzzle, First-Person, Adventure Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Airtight Games Description News Images Videos [...]

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