July 8, 2012

Review – Quantum Conundrum

Review Quantum Conundrum
Conundrums exist all around us. Just this morning, I puzzled over a way to make coffee without getting out of bed – though maybe that’s more of a daily annoyance than a true conundrum.

The conundrums offered up by Kim Swift and Airtight Games tend to challenge players to navigate rooms of perilous lasers and other hazards in order to activate pressure switches to open the way forward. And the ludicrous scientific adventure that unfolds draws quick comparisons through the gameplay and Swift to Portal, which makes it rather easy to suggest that if you loved Portal, you’re in fine hands here.

There are plenty of similarities to discover whilst visiting the eccentric Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, voiced by Star Trek The Next Generation’s John De Lancie, who offers companionship with a disembodied voice that continually comments on situations and regales players with the history of the Quadwrangle family, as well as his own scientific accomplishments.

Key among the similarities are the aforementioned pressure switches that require the constant manipulation of recurring objects. Conundrums often involve finding the means to cross dangerous environments as well, continually mixing these two challenges to create rooms that do something familiar – find me wandering off to do something else until suddenly realizing the solution and running back to the computer to test my hypothesis.

Whenever a game gets under my skin that much, I figure it must be doing something right.

Review Quantum Conundrum
Whilst visiting your eccentric inventor Uncle, an accident sends him to an unknown place, and in the hopes of sorting it out, he grants you access to his dimensional shifting glove, which allows you to shift dimensions without being affected as everything else in the area changes. If you’ve ever dreamed of a dimension of pure chocolate, Conundrum is sort of on your page, immediately introducing players to the “fluffy” dimension, where everything in the area becomes soft and quilted. Aside from encouraging the idea of hugging previously heavy objects, this also allows them to be moved, which comes in rather handy for activating those pressure switches.

But perhaps you need to break a window and only possess a cardboard box. Remembering your dimensions, the sensible act is to throw the harmless box toward the window, and then switch to the “heavy” dimension in order to smash the glass with a box that has now become a brick. Quantum Conundrum is filled with recurring objects – couches, safes, tables, boxes – all of which take on new attributes with the push of a button – because said button swaps the area to a different dimension of course. The important thing to remember is that dimensions exist to directly affect the physical attributes of objects, so sadly I haven’t discovered any dimension filled with cats, but there is a “reverse gravity” dimension to horse around with.

Players aren’t quite let loose to switch between dimensions at their leisure right away. Each room of the Professor’s immense mansion contains a generator, with slots ready to house dimensional batteries that provide access to the various alternatives – powered by “science juice”. This allows for additional challenges as players often need to recover a battery to access a certain dimension, or work within the window created when a drinking bird activates the switch that makes a dimension briefly accessible.

Review Quantum Conundrum
With these concerns sorted, a great deal of the play requires quick reflexes more than anything – from swapping quickly between dimensions to jumping and dodging dangers. As it happens, I was treated to the “you’re dead” screen plenty of times, though Airtight has added humorous lines about the many wondrous things in life you’ll never experience now that you’re dead, which helped ease the sting.

There are plenty of times I died jumping between platforms to avoid lasers, or misjudged a jump while leaping across a field of objects temporally slowed to a snail’s pace via the “slow” dimension. The experience drew me back to more Portal comparisons, particularly the way Valve crafted the challenges of that series with laser-like precession – meaning that if you were expected to fall into a portal and fire out from another, you always seemed to land exactly where you should. Or to put it another way, once you solved the traversal problem and put portals in their relatively proper place, you became a bit of a temporary passenger.

Quantum Conundrum is far more loose in its design, whether you’re jumping between furniture as it switches between dimensions, or tossing an object across a void and then slowing down time to run across a narrow series of ramps in time to catch it. These challenges are going to see some missteps along the way that require repeated attempts. But the difference creates a quicker pace of action, and a more demanding one certainly as you might swap between two or three dimensions quickly in order to accomplish a task. Being a more console minded gamer and playing the game on PC did make me long for a controller, simply an issue of personal preference mind you.

Since I keep dragging Portal into this review, it’s important to note how that series always delighted me most when it felt like I was breaking the rules to accomplish a puzzle, even though I was doing exactly what Valve intended me to do. The most joyous bit of Quantum Conundrum is that it deceives me into believing the same thing, with the added possibilities of multiple dimensions and objects extending that delusion to make me feel terribly clever at times.

It lacks the layered complexity of Portal, opting instead to wear plenty of its humorous charms on its sleeve. But the approach works here, allowing players to get straight to the business of chewing on the many conundrums that await.

Airtight Games


Windows PC, PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade) (Windows PC Reviewed)


Release Date
June 21, 2012 Windows PC, July 10, 2012 PlayStation Network, July 11, 2012 Xbox LIVE Arcade

$14.99 Windows PC

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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