Quantum Conundrum Review
If you’ve read anything concerning Quantum Conundrum, chances are you saw the name “Kim Swift” pop up a few times. Ms. Swift, if you don’t recall, is best known as the creator of the critical darling known as Portal. But while every gaming news outlet mentions Kim Swift’s involvement with Quantum Conundrum, it’s imperative that you understand something right off the bat: This game is not Portal. Parts of it look like Portal. Parts of it play like Portal. But Portal it is not. The quicker you come to terms with this fact, the quicker you’ll enjoy this quirky piece of brain-candy.
The story begins with you, a young and precocious child, being dropped off at your uncle’s mansion for the summer. In past years, your uncle has entertained you by showing off his latest inventions. Only this year, your uncle has accidentally trapped himself in a different dimension and you’re the only one who can get the poor guy out. That right there is about 75 percent of Quantum Conundrum’s story. After the intro scene, which goes over all of the above, your uncle’s voice over the intercom will be the only thing that reminds you this game has a plot. It feels like the developers forgot the game needed a story while they designed puzzles and tacked it on at the last minute.
The IFS glove is your uncle’s latest invention that allows the user to switch between four dimensions, each with its own unique properties. One turns everything into a lightweight and carryable pillow, while another slows time to an almost standstill. These dimensions affect the game’s physics engine as well. Safes and furniture that are normally unaffected by fans will soar through the air and stick to walls in the “Fluffy” dimension. Utilizing these dimensions is key to navigating the mansion and figuring out what exactly happened to your uncle. The earlier puzzles don’t give a good first impression, but fortunately the game doesn’t take too long giving you multiple dimensions to play with. Soon enough you’ll be throwing fluffy safes, freezing time to jump on them and inverting gravity as you surf through the exit, cackling like the genius you are.
A few of the puzzles are real head-scratchers, but most of them are “just right” in terms of difficulty. You’ll breeze through the early puzzles but eventually things will slow down and you will be forced to sit and tinker with the game’s physics engine. I probably shouldn’t say “forced” because this is easily the best part about Quantum Conundrum. Various puzzles will host obvious but “fake” solutions that don’t let you pass, but indicate you’re thinking in the right direction. Then everything “clicks” and you pass through the exit feeling smart, which is a goal every puzzle designer hopes to achieve. Unfortunately, most of these puzzles require precise platforming to complete. There were times where I’d solve a puzzle in a minute or two, but take five to ten minutes to land every single jump. What’s worse is you have no legs, making every jump something of a gamble. You’re pretty sure you’ll land that jump, but there’s always that wrinkle of doubt that seeps through. I still found the platforming fun for the most part, it just would have been nice if there were less of it.
Quantum Conundrum is a pretty bare-bones game when it comes to the visual department. The mansion has a sterile, cartoony look to it that’s reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. Hilariously expansive rooms dwarf whatever furniture or painting that resides within it, making the mansion feel almost empty. All this gives the game a sort of minimalist look to it. While I didn’t mind the vacant rooms, I did mind how often they were re-used. Several times I quit the game, only to return and wonder, “Haven’t I been here before?” The next puzzle would usually answer my question, but I’d rather not have to ask the question in the first place.
I have an inner conflict with Quantum Conundrum. A part of me loves this game for its ingenuity, but the empty story and vanilla dialogue makes the experience feel like a missed opportunity. You shouldn’t compare this game to Portal, but there are so many similarities that it’s almost impossible not to. The lasers, robots and disembodied voice all remind you of a better game you’ve played before. Still, if you know what you’re getting into and keep your expectations in check, Quantum Conundrum will give you some delicious sustenance during the summer lull.