Let's just get this out of the way: yes, Quantum Conundrum, just like Portal, is an ego puzzler. Yes, it was designed by Kim Swift, Portal's project manager. And yes, it shares some of Portal's core features: there's a physics-changing device, a silly omniscient narrator, and an alarming number of buttons to be pressed.
But Quantum Conundrum creeps out of the mighty shadow of its spiritual predecessor and stands triumphantly as a game that is unique, raw and brilliant in many ways. After all, Portal has a worthy rival.
Here's the quantum puzzle in a nutshell: you're a little boy, 8 or 10 years old, or something minor (since your avatar doesn't speak or does a lot), and you visit your eccentric scientist's uncle at his eccentric scientist's mansion . Just as you get there, the power goes out. Her uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, says something about being trapped in another dimension. Asks you to save him.
So you pick up Uncle Quadwrangle's Interdimensional Moving Device, a glove that allows you to manipulate the objects around you by moving a certain space into one of four different physical "dimensions". Your job is to use these dimensions to solve puzzles throughout the mansion and restore the power so that you can find out where the hell square has gone.
- Fluffy: Makes things fluffier (read: lighter).
- Heavy: makes things harder.
- Slow motion: slows down the movement.
- Reverse Gravity: Reverses gravity.
But there is a catch. You can't move to a dimension until you find the appropriate battery – a color-coded cylinder made from magic or science or something – and put it in the generator that powers each level. Some of the mansion's rooms have a battery or two, forcing you to hunt for the rest. Some levels all give you. Some don't give you any.
WHY: The puzzles are satisfying, the humor is delightful, and you will feel smart.
developer: Airtight games
Platforms: PC (played), Xbox 360, PS3
Release date: June 21 (PC), Summer (Xbox 360, PS3)
Type of game: Type of Game: Ego Puzzler
What i played: Finished the game in an 8-9 hour marathon session. I didn't mean to stop.
Two things that I loved
- Every time you die you will laugh. Heavy.
- There are a number of books that are distributed throughout the game. Her titles are science puns. Like "Great Exponentiations" and "Henry ^ 8."
Two things that I hated
- When I tried to move a box, it hit the wall and slipped out of my hands for no reason.
- The climax is too abrupt. The game just kind of ends.
Back-of-box offers made to order
- "I want to visit the Quantum Conundrum mansion and just hang out for a day or two. Chill out with the professor. Maybe you can do a little dimensional shift. Can we do it?" – Jason Schreier, Kotaku.com
- "Portal. Portal Portal Portal. Portal!" -Jason Schreier, Kotaku.com
Like any good puzzler, Quantum Conundrum starts off slowly and makes it easy for you to get started with a series of simple tasks such as "Make this safe so you can pick it up and button it" and "Make this safe heavier to make it can. " push a button. "As you progress, the difficulty increases and presents you with tougher challenges such as" propel this box forward, jump on it, fly it over an abyss and drop it on a button ".
The creative thing about these puzzles is not the objects you manipulate, but the combinations you can achieve with your newfound powers. Suppose you want to break a window. You can switch to Fluffy, pick up a nearby safe, throw it against the window, and then quickly switch to Heavy so it has enough weight to break the glass. Suppose you want to cross a large pit. You can switch to Fluffy, pick up a box, throw it over the gap, and then quickly switch to slow-motion to jump on board and head to the other side.
It is this type of reasoning that can help you overcome some of the Quantum Conundrum, but this is a game that requires equal parts intellect and skill. You don't just have to design solutions. You have to do it. You may know how to get a specific capsule into a specific generator, but your fingers need to be nimble enough to make the right throw at the right time. You may find that you need to use that automated laser beam to shape a staircase, but you need to switch between dimensions in just the right pattern to take them off.
These types of puzzles can sometimes feel harder than it should, not because of a particular developer challenge, but because the game's physics are shaky. Safes and boxes tend to feel oversensitive if you lug and toss them around. An object can fall out of your hands if you accidentally brush it against a wall. Some boxes pop a little too much.
Incidentally, I used these inflatables to hack my way through two of the game's head-scratching levels, both of which took place towards the end of the game and included robots, lasers, and boxes. I don't know how to solve them, but I don't think I was repeatedly reversing gravity and flinging boxes around each room until they happened to land where I needed them. When I finished, I felt the urge to email Swift and the rest of their development team at Airtight Games to mock them. "Just broke your game, loser!"
Then I got stuck on one of the next levels for almost an hour. It was frustrating, but necessary. I had a lesson to be taught.
But tedious and mostly difficult phases are an anomaly here – most of the game is balanced and appealing. Quantum Conundrum is best at these moments of sheer puzzling pleasure, when switching between dimensions, watching the world change, solving dilemmas, and feeling smart. I wish more of his puzzles had taken advantage of all four dimensions instead of just accessing two or three at a time, because the ones that force you to think in multiple directions are the most satisfying of all.
The little details are wonderful too. Every time you die you will see a snappy, funny death message about something you will never see (since you are dead). Example: "Thing # 74 You Will Never Live To: When you watch your favorite childhood television shows, they turn into terrifying movies."
Perhaps the greatest quality of Quantum Conundrum is this: while playing through the eight or nine hours it took me to finish, I was sometimes frustrated, angry, and even a little angry. But I never stopped smiling.
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Republished with permission.
Jason Schreier is an editor at Kotaku. You can also find him on Twitter.