It’s hard to not be struck with Déjà vu at the start of Quantum Conundrum. In short, it’s a science themed first person action physics puzzler not unlike the Portal franchise. In fact, Quantum Conudrum’s lead designer Kim Swift, was the co creator of Portal and involved in the making of the Left 4 Dead games at Valve. With this in mind, I want to approach this review respecting the game as a unique entity and not as a derivative of Portal, no game should have “like ____ but,” stamped all over it’s review.
Quantum Conundrum begins with you (as a kid) being dropped off at your Uncle’s mansion by your Mom without much reason as to why you are there. The halls are dark and the only sign of your Uncle, Professor Quadwrangle, is his voice coming from the mansion’s intercom system. Professor Quadwrangle doesn’t seem to thrilled with your unannounced arrival, but decides to enlist your help in restoring the mansion’s generators and rescuing him from a pocket dimension he got trapped in. You are tasked to do this with the help of the Professor’s latest invention, the “Inner-Dimensional Shift” or IDS Glove for short, which allows you to alter the physical properties of the world around you. There are 5 dimensions available to you; Reverse, Fluffy, Heavy, Slow and Normal, each change the physics and behavior of the world allowing the player to lift and throw otherwise heavy safes, or activate the
1500 Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Button, Portable Kinetic Mass to Electricity Converter with otherwise light objects like cardboard to activate machines or unlock doors.
In each puzzle, dimensions are activated with a IDS battery either by the player, or with drinking bird powered button and additional dimensions are conditionally unavailable or activated later in the puzzle with a different battery placed somewhere within the level. You must use the available resources and switches to unlock and navigate to the exit of each room leading up to a generator that needs activating. Most challenges have only one intended solution that requires a particular use of each game object, platforming and dimensions to progress forward. The solutions often times feel unintentional, as if you are somehow outsmarting the game when in fact you are doing the exact thing you are suppose to. A great example is a brilliant puzzle near the end of the game that tasks the player to pick one IDS battery, then hides the rest of the batteries throughout the level, allowing the player to improvise and come up with a seemingly unique solution for the level. It’s in those moments of improvising (or rather the illusion of improvising) that Quantum Conundrum‘s gameplay shines brightest.
Quantum Conundrum is powered by the Unreal 3 engine, but presents a more Team Fortress/Cartoon art style. The main puzzle rooms invoke a unique harebrained and quirky science feel, each more ridiculous than the last. The halls connecting each chamber however, repeated FAR too often and detract from an otherwise charming art design. Each dimension changes the ascetics of the world, the heavy dimension for example will plate the world in a heavy plate metal look, while fluffy makes everything resemble a soft pillow. Even better still are the paintings that are scattered throughout the mansion, not only do they come with a funny story from the Professor over the intercom, but also change in silly and fitting ways as you shift dimensions. The clever dialog does most of the heavy lifting for the game’s charm, Professor Quadwrangle always has something to say about the things you may be looking at or doing. Often times these otherwise unrelated stories act as a subtle hint for the puzzle you may be engaged in and will lead to that all too rewarding “ah HA!” moment that makes the struggle worth it.
If you wanted to describe Quantum Conundrum in one word, “Clever” would fit the bill. The game oozes with a childlike charm that makes it unique and fun experience for those who love a great action puzzler.
Sort of Related Afterthoughts:
One of my big takeaways from this game is the use perspective, not in regards to the camera, but in story and gameplay. Quantum Conundrum makes it a point for everything to physically be bigger than you to drive the point that you are a child, but did the events of the game really play out exactly as they did, or was the whole game just a child’s imagination that embellished on what actually happened. I know as a child visiting my aunt’s bed and breakfast, I remember playing in elaborate gardens and this huge house that seemed to have no end. When I returned to that same place as an adult, the magic was gone and it didn’t seem so grand anymore, as if my memories were wrong.
Children can have such a way of seeing the fun, charm and beauty in the world.
Release Date: June 21th PC, July 11th Consoles