Review: Quantum Conundrum
Have you ever wondered what lies beyond our world? Just underneath this paper thin dimension, could there be polar opposites of ourselves in, perhaps, a “fluffy” version? Well think no more as Quantum Conundrum has you covered!
Quantum Conundrum is a brand new XBLA title from AirTight games, created by Kim Swift who everyone should know (if you don’t, shame on you) as one of the main designers behind Portal, a little game you may have heard of, which was a huge hit amongst gamers for its ingenuity and down right intensely difficult puzzles!
Clearly hoping to continue in that path, Quantum Conundrum is a cartoon style puzzler in which your character, a young boy, is dropped off on the doorstep of his uncle’s mansion. It just so happens however that your uncle is the crazed Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, a mad scientist and only present as a disembodied voice reporting from an alternate dimension, where he appears to have lost himself. Its left up to you and his latest invention the Interdimentional Shift Device, or ISD for short, to solve all the puzzles lying around his mansion stopping you from uncovering just exactly what has gone wrong. The ISD is a super cool glove which allows you to switch between the different dimensions of reality at will.
You can flip to the Fluffy dimension, where everything is light as a pillow and reminiscent of an over-budgeted Andrex advert, or the Heavy dimension where the same area and objects look as though Kiss have stepped in to decorate and have made everything ten times their normal weight.
As you progress through Quadwrangle Manor, you gain access to more dimensions, including one that slows time to a crawl (with a cool sepia/8mm look) and another that reverses gravity so that loose objects fly to the ceiling. These alternate dimensions never alter the player in anyway nor do they effect the house in any physical manor (see what I did there?), so this leaves you to manipulate all the objects at your disposal, whether they be spat from a convenient D.O.L.I, which is nothing more than a button operated replicator from furniture left behind by the professor.
This initial concept is solid, but during the first chapter feels forced and gets too predictable far too quickly, with the first 15 minutes being nothing more than walking through corridors listening to the professor essentially explain the rather flimsy back story, before suddenly being given the gift of switching to the fluffy dimension. Most puzzles from this point consisted of simple weight changes or moving objects to reach higher ground. Turn a cardboard box to iron so it’s heavy enough to trigger a switch plate or turn it into a safe fluffy to pick it up and throw it, before flicking back to the real world so it crashes through a glass window. Essentially the first chapter serves as a rather long tutorial, which quickly makes you resent having your hand held for such basic ideas. Being spoon fed every concept just isn’t needed anymore and actually takes away from the concept of exploring the world and space around you.
Its not until the later stages when the other dimensions are introduced, when you’re truly tested, and trust me you will be tested. But the great thing about Qunatum Conundrum is that its main goal of being fiendishly difficult is a huge success! Lasers, huge fans and Robots among other things all come in to play, asking you to eventually survey your area before setting a movement into motion and reacting with swift precise adjustments to your dimension. At one stage I was required to move 3 cardboard boxes around the room using anti-gravity before throwing a table off of an edge and then quickly freezing time, so I could quickly jump onto the table to reach the other side and grab the 3 boxes…phew! Theres a lot to juggle, but after some trial and error (ok I mean shedloads of trial and error) that final win feels amazing!
The art style is not too far from an essentially cutesy version of Bioshocks futuresque yet 50’s image, and I think this works incredibly well adding bright colours and a nice feel to the overall experience, with family portraits littered throughout this building which if you check back on will change in hilarious ways when you choose to switch dimension (Heavy dimension is great for this), however Quantum Conundrum does seem to recycle its level design, meaning after the halfway mark you’ll have pretty much seen most of what there is to see with only different combinations of the same layouts offered, which is a huge shame when you consider just what has been achieved visually. Once again this shows just how much of a two steps forward one step back experience, that quantum conundrum can provide you with. Its filled with great ideas and great puzzles which are often let down by forced additions or a feeling of being rushed to fill out the 6-7 hour story mode.
So by now Im sure you might actually be confused as to what my opinion of Quantum Conundrum was, this is because I was for a time confused myself. So much is right with the game such as the lovely art style, a cool soundtrack with some funny one liners thrown in and most importantly it’s a big challenge that you wont just breeze through. However there are still niggling problems within this rough diamond – the story is flimsy at best with a lot of hand holding for the first hour or two and far too much repetition is relied upon to pad out the story.
Quantum Conundrum is definitely worth playing, as there is so much to take out of the experience, just be willing to suffer a slow start and don’t expect the polished perfection of Portal.
Review: Quantum Conundrum Results
What we liked:
Cool art style
What we disliked:
Relentless hand holding