Review: Quantum Conundrum
Step into a new dimension with Quantum Conundrum. Especially the Fluffy Dimension.
- Worth The Time?Yes, every minute spent shifting dimensions is time well spent.
- Things LovedIntuitive and logical puzzles, gentle learning curve, challenging puzzles and platforming, good use of all four dimensions, charming visual style, lengthy campaign, a wealth of content, low price, great voice acting.
- Things HatedStory falls flat, repetitive environments, some control quirks.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of the Portal series or just a fan of puzzle games in general, then you'll absolutely love Quantum Conundrum, There is enough content here to keep you entertained past the 8 hour campaign, and the extremely low price just makes the decision of a purchase even easier. There is really no reason you should not own this game.
- Name: Quantum Conundrum
- Genre: Puzzle/ Platformer
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC (Xbox 360 and PS3 at a later stage)
- Developer: Airtight Games
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Price: R125.00
- Reviewed On: PC
Portal Portal Portal. Kim Swift may be famous for introducing the world to Portals and teaching us how to think with portals, but there is no such thing this time around. Introducing Quantum Conundrum, another puzzle title from the mind of Kim Swift, which has you shifting dimensions and jumping around in order to save your trapped uncle. Quantum Conundrum introduces a new form of puzzles, allowing you to shift between four different dimensions in order to complete your tasks. While these puzzles shine due to some fantastic level design, the narrative is not able to keep up and the lack of some visual diversity is a bit jarring. Nonetheless, Quantum Conundrum is a lengthy, challenging puzzler that wins you over with its charm and keeps you hooked with its addictive puzzles.
Quantum Conundrum features a short narrative that serves to explain why a twelve-year old child is risking life and limb to save his genius inventor of an uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. You take control of the silent twelve-year old protagonist shortly after being dropped off at Quadwrangle Manor, a large mansion where your uncle resides. His sister, your mother, believes that the Professor doesn’t get enough human interaction locked up in his mansion and her answer to this is dropping you off for visits every now and then. While Quadwrangle despises such visits, he also uses them as an opportunity to show off some new and interesting experiments, hoping to impress his young nephew. This time though, something has gone wrong, and Quadwrangle informs you after you arrive that he is stuck within the Pocket Dimension, a dimension where all lost things disappear to. It’s your job to restart generators around the mansion, lifting the lockdown and saving your Uncle.
The story isn’t innovative or gripping and rather serves to give you purpose while you move from puzzle to puzzle. While you’d expect a warming tale of a growing relationship between Quadwrangle and his nephew it never really takes off and is sometimes outright confusing. Quadwrangle constantly tells you that he despises people visiting him and often downplays your intelligence even after completing some seriously challenging puzzles. Then, all of a sudden, his tone will change as he tells you of his time-travelling adventures, past experiments and the odd praise here and there. The problem is that he’s almost schizophrenic, changing his tone completely even when you are near to saving his life. It destroys any relationship you might have built with him up to that point and considering he is the only character that actually speaks, it’s disappointing. Voice acting is thankfully very good, but with a weak script a voice actor can only do so much. The bottom line is that Quantum Conundrum doesn’t really get you invested into any story, but thankfully that is the only real problem with this otherwise engrossing title.
Quadwrangle Manor, in all its glory, is a charming spectacle. Visuals are colourful and charming, giving the game an almost childish and innocent feel. The mansion twists and changes as you venture deeper and deeper, and it’s interesting to see some of the things lying around. An abundance of paintings that shift and change followed by books that have “puny” titles litter the hallways that you are forced to explore, with puzzle rooms consisting of the most detail and visual diversity. What isn’t impressive, however, are the filler rooms. These rooms are basically a load screen in the background, forcing you to walk through familiar looking hallways while listening to some dialogue and looking at paintings. This negates the need to stare at a load screen, but once you realize how many hallways have been recycled and you stare up at the same painting for the fifth time, you realize that it is no better than a loading screen. Worse yet is that the developers seemed to have realized this as well, with Quadwrangle sometimes commenting about how similar all the rooms in his mansion look. Thankfully this changes quite a bit in the last third of the game, but the first portion gets really repetitive really fast.
Fortunately, most of your time in Quantum Conundrum is spent solving puzzles and this is where the game truly shines. Similar to Portal, Quantum Conundrum features a simple mechanic to enhance puzzles, but it’s through outstanding level design that these puzzles feel fresh and challenging each and every time. Instead of a Portal gun, you’re given an Inter-Dimensional Shift Device, Quadwrangle’s latest experiment, which allows you to shift into four different dimensions. The first dimension you’re able to shfit into is the Fluffy Dimension, which makes any object extremely light, allowing you to pick them up and throw them. The Heavy Dimension does the exact opposite of this, making even the lightest of objects too heavy to lift. The third dimension is Slow, bringing everything around you to an absolute crawl and allowing you to take advantage of falling objects. The final dimension is Reverse Gravity, causing anything that isn’t bolted to the fall to shoot upwards extremely quickly. Quantum Conundrum also uses the same type of “conservation of momentum” principle that appears in Portal, which further adds to the complexity of the puzzles. You may only enter one of these dimensions at a time, with the game often forcing you to shift between various different dimensions fairly quickly in order to succeed.
You’re introduced to each dimension periodically, with puzzles forcing you to utilize all the dimensions you have available in order to complete them. While you may think that early levels are a bore with only the Fluffy Dimension, you’d be sorely mistake. Shifting dimensions is the only tool you’ll have at your disposal, and certainly not the only thing you’ll have to compete with. Giant fans blow away anything light enough, glass panels won’t break if you throw something fluffy at it, lasers seek to destroy items and kill you and giant pits filled with deadly “Scientific Fluid” stop you in your tracks. You’re forced to use everything around you in order to succeed such as spring panels, door switches, activating lasers and an array of furniture. Quantum Conundrum’s puzzles rarely feel overly difficult, but they also don’t feel easy. Instead, every single puzzle is extremely logical and emphasizes that the shortest path is not always the easiest. Some puzzles are sure to have you stumped for a few minutes but eventually something will click and an incredible sense of accomplishment follows after you’re decided path actually works out the way you intended it too. Even if a puzzle has you stumped for too long, the subtle yet helpful hints from the Professor himself are usually enough to get the wheels turning.
Surprisingly, solving puzzles isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing in Quantum Conundrum. The game feature’s a great deal of platforming, usually tying into your puzzles. Most prominent in the Slow Dimension, platforming is just as important as shifting from dimension to dimension, with well-timed movements and jumps separating failure from success. It may take a bit of practice to establish your bearings when flying through the air, especially since you’re in a first-person view and your character far exceeds the jumping capability of any child I’ve seen, but once you grasp it, it becomes easier to quickly hop between floating furniture. Probably the best use of platforming and the dimensions comes into play in the most enjoyable puzzle sections, which involve you open doors by throwing round shaped power conductors into large containers in a sort of “gigantic basketball” fashion. The rush of flying quickly through the air, only to slow down and carefully throw the ball is one of the game’s highs, and thankfully there isn’t just one of these sections.
But puzzles such as these require a certain amount of precision, timing and quick fingers, which is sometimes a bit of a problem considering the control scheme. On PC, the keys to shift dimensions are mapped around your movement keys. This can be changed but you should find this an easy configuration in comparison to other combinations. However, having four buttons mapped closely to each other, each with massively varying effects presents some problems. The game will sometimes require you to shift between three different dimensions extremely quickly, which can sometimes lead to some fumbling fingers and incorrect dimension entrances. It’s not that it’s impossible; it’s just that, in this instance, a controller would be better suited. Controllers are supported, but then this conflicts with another quirk: the game often also requires you to flick around and change where you are looking very quickly. Since shifting and turning quickly are usually featured in the same puzzle, you’re a bit stuck. Do you switch to a controller to making shifting a bit easier, or do you stick to a mouse for quick movement? It’s not entirely game-breaking, but it is noticeable, and will probably be more problematic on consoles where there is no choice between the two.
However, it’s easy to overlook little annoyances like this when you realize just how complete this entire package really is. Aside from completing the story there are many, many collectibles to find, leaderboards to challenge and objectives to complete that could see you playing through levels well after your first completion. In fact, you’re first run through is quite lengthy, clocking in around 7-8 hours without really looking for much other than the solution to the puzzle in front of you. This is long in comparison to most games nowadays, and considering that Quantum Conundrum costs you just over R100, it’s an absolute steal for this amount of content. This is probably why this game is so attractive, as it gives you no real excuse to pass the experience up.
It may not have a smarter or funnier story than Portal 2, and the ending does feel a bit abrupt, but other than that there is absolutely no reason for you not to play Quantum Conundrum. With some extremely clever puzzles that are brought to life through fantastic level design to the charming visual style, Quantum Conundrum establishes itself as a new contendor and takes a great first step in a hopefully long journey. But the most attractive aspect about this game is the price, which just makes the wealth of content on offer that much sweeter. I would have gladly paid a premium price for this game, because it delivers what many “premium AAA” titles are failing to lately. Quantum Conundrum invites you to enter various different dimensions and have fun at the same time, and you’d be a fool to pass up this invitation.