[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Airtight Games, Inc” publishers=”Square Enix” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”July 11, 2012″]
Video games are the home of quasi science experiments gone fun. Extra dimensional rifts, portals that connect two points in space, time travel, shrink rays, growth mushrooms, and faster than light tra0vel are just some of the examples of the good time theoretical physics can be. Portal broke new grounds combining comedy with a strongly structured set of puzzles using portals, gravity, and momentum. Following the success of the first Portal, the co-creator Kim Swift moved to Airtight Games and started working on Quantum Conundrum. While looking at any of the pre-release materials it is hard to not draw comparisons to Swift’s previous title. That leaves one to wonder if Swift can replicate the charm and revolutionary gameplay without Quantum Conundrum turning into a Portal clone.
In Quantum Conundrum you are the nephew of an eccentric and somewhat mad scientist from a long line of somewhat mad scientists. Your mother has forced you to visit your uncle over the years, but as you arrive for your visit this time your uncle’s newest experiment goes tragically wrong knocking out the mansion’s power and trapping your uncle in an unknown location. Tasked with rectifying the fallout, you equip an early prototype of your uncle’s Interdimensional Shift Device glove to help you traverse the strangely laid out mansion. There are three generators on three wings that must be restarted. Between you and the generator on each hall is a rather odd set of obstacles you must overcome. The story attempts to explain them but fails in any reasonable way. This isn’t unusual in video games but after the incredible way Portal framed their puzzles, it is hard not to expect at least something on par.
The gameplay of Quantum Conundrum is based around the player shifting dimensions that give the objects in the world different properties or breaks common rules of space and time. There is a “Fluffy” dimension where everything is lightweight and appears to be made of fluffy plush stitched together. The counter dimension to Fluffy is the Heavy dimension where everything is denser and looks to be made of some kind of hellish iron. The last two dimensions deal more with the rules of physics with one being slow time and the other inverse gravity.
The puzzles start off simple by using one or two of the dimensions but eventually all four will come into play having to shift rapidly between them to reach your goal. The set up is nearly the same as Portal’s with you entering a room with a puzzle, reaching the exit of the puzzle, and running down a hallway or up some stairs to the next puzzle. Some of the more inventive puzzles do get dragged down with poor platforming elements. Platforming is always hard to pull off from a first person point of view. It is frustrating to have to repeat a puzzle a half dozen times while knowing how but being unable because designers have not realized first person jumping sucks with very few games ever pulling it off.
While the puzzles seem inventive, the locations in the mansion and aesthetic are extremely repetitive. As you run down hallways, you will find that they have the exact same furniture and items in them. Instead of ignoring it though, the story at least tries to explain it away as a quirk of the mad doctor’s cloning machine. The look and feel of the mansion is very reminiscent of a cell shaded Pixar movie. That is not a bad thing as it gives the game some built in charm.
Like Portal, Quantum Conundrum comes with the comedy in spades. Humor is attempted everywhere between your uncle talking to you, random information, blueprints of his crazy inventions, and paintings of various aspects of your uncle’s life and ancestry. Unfortunately, the game does not set up the humor quite like Portal so the impact is not nearly as effective. Portal would be a George Carlin, while Quantum Conundrum is a Carlos Mencia.
Quantum Conundrum is a great physics puzzle game that unfortunately draws comparisons to its predecessor Portal. This is partly due to the developers and partly due to the PR and gaming press pushing the connection to Portal via Kim Swift. The puzzles are fun and the story and plot very much feel like something out of a Pixar movie.