Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by Sam Desatoff, Editor
Quantum Conundrum Review
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Airtight Games
Release Date: June 21, 2012 (PC)
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC via Steam
Review Note: A game token was received for review purposes.
Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzle game that bears more than an passing resemblance to Valve’s Portal, and given that project lead Kim Swift helped create the much-beloved puzzler during her time at Valve, that should come as no surprise. Like its spiritual predecessor, Quantum Conundrum tasks players with solving a series of puzzle-based rooms to progress to the next puzzle-based room, all while an ever-present voice from above keeps you company. The similarities are not subtle, but once I dove into the smartly-designed puzzles, I honestly stopped noticing.
The story in Quantum Conundrum centers on a young man (the player) and his brilliant scientist uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle (voiced by John De Lancie). When your Professor Q gets trapped somewhere in his home, it falls to you to solve his sprawling mansion’s puzzles and bring him back. From his displaced location, your uncle’s voice accompanies you along your journey similar to Portal’s GLaDOS, providing humorous commentary and doling out jokes regularly.
If Portal forced you to “think with portals,” then Quantum Conundrum forces you to “think with dimensions.” Gameplay and puzzle-solving is handled via the Interdimensional Shift Device (ISD), a glove that allows the wearer to “shift” between four different dimensions. In these dimensions, objects take on different physical properties such as becoming very light and easy to carry in the “fluffy” dimension, or exceedingly heavy in the, well, “heavy” dimension. The “slow time” and “reverse gravity” dimensions round out your arsenal.
Various switches and pressure-sensitive platforms react only to objects in certain dimensions, and using all four dimensions together in later levels becomes quite brain-bending. In one instance, I was forced to enter the heavy dimension which caused a stack of crates upon which I was standing begin to fall, then I had to quickly enter the slow time dimension to slow the fall which allowed me to time my next jump. The puzzle design is very inspired, and while some gave me pause while I worked through possible solutions in my mind, I never felt truly stuck. This led to a rewarding experience and a sense of accomplishment upon completing particularly tough puzzles.
While the puzzle design is inspired, the art direction is less so. The exaggerated architecture of the mansion felt goofy, but not distracting. And while the aesthetics certainly fit with the tone of the game, many of the environments were repetitive and dull.
Control wise, it’s hard to complain. I never had any trouble lining up jumps or dropping objects onto their intended targets. That said, there were some puzzles that required precise timing, something I personally am not a fan of – I don’t necessarily think dexterity translates to skill. In a Call of Duty or a Battlefield, reaction time is key, but in a puzzle game where finding solutions is paramount to twitch timing these instances came off as frustrating.
Quantum Conundrum is a game with plenty of charm. The sense of humor works well with the fantastic puzzle design, and If you can embrace the similarities to Portal rather than condem them, your experience will be that much better.
+ Puzzle design
+ Sense of humor
– Repetitive environments
– Timing-based puzzles