Quantum Conundrum is off to a Good Start
Lady gamers! I know there aren’t many women that you can look up to in the game industry. Thank goodness for Kim Swift, first person puzzler extraordinaire. I don’t need to mention that she is responsible for Narbacular Drop and Portal, do I? She and Airtight games have created a new game for you to cuddle up to for a couple of hours. Not only is she worthy of your adoration and money, but she has made a game worth your time. Quantum Conundrum is an adorable, challenging game that will make you feel like a fool and a genius at the same time.
You’re unceremoniously dumped at your uncle’s lab/mansion. You enter, touting your disproportionate suitcase, and within minutes, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Your uncle Quadwrangle is now trapped in another dimension and of course you, a 12 year old boy, are the most qualified person for the task of rescuing him. He reluctantly allows you to handle his new invention, the Interdimentional Shift Device, so that you can help him escape from his prison. The ISD allows you to rapidly switch through dimensions and manipulate objects by changing the physics of your environment. You’ll be given the Fluffy dimension, which makes objects light enough for a young boy to move. The Slow dimension, which slows everything down to a crawl, a Heavy dimension that adds heft, and a Reverse Gravity dimension which I’m sure you can figure out its effect.
Where Quantum Conundrum truly succeeds is the brilliance of the puzzles. They are interesting and challenging, and the difficulty curve succeeds in easing you into the complexity that comes later with mastery of the ISD. The puzzles can leave you scratching your head, revolving through the same motions again and again until something strikes you. That ah-ha moment is satisfying and keeps you playing, despite any frustration you might have felt. Towards the end of the game you find yourself quickly and purposefully shifting from dimension to dimension, and suddenly this young boy has become a god among men, brilliant and powerful.
Missing the Mark with Quantum Conundrum
While all of this is fancy and grand, there is something missing from Quantum Conundrum. While Valve pours story and atmosphere into every element of its games, it becomes painfully obvious early on that Airtight Games either didn’t or couldn’t muster up compelling characters or story. I wanted desperately to care about Quadwrangle and his nephew but both fell flat of making an impression. While GLaDOS gave Chell character and relatability, Quadwrangle steals all of the dim spotlight for himself. The voice acting, by John de Lancie, is excellent, and most of the games light humor comes from him.
There is a reason most developers do not attempt first person platforming. Jumping from tiny block to tiny block was an exercise in frustration. There is a lot of trial and error and you will see the death screen quite a lot. Fortunately, the death screens had some of the funniest writing in the game. Each death would remind you of another thing that you will never be able to do now that you are um, dead. Falling your way into middle management and firing your first housekeeper are now all out of your grasp. How sad for you.
Be warned! If you are going to be playing on a PC, Quantum Conundrum requires a fairly high end machine to run. There are no video settings to be found, and framerates can be a problem for many PC owners. If you are prone to dizziness, the motion blur, which cannot be turned off in game, can be an absolute nightmare. I had to edit the config files just to continue playing the game. I hope that console players out there can handle it, or that they add the option because otherwise you are out of luck.
Unfortunately it is impossible to talk about Quantum Conundrum without talking about Portal. If you played Portal because you loved the mindbending puzzles, then Quantum Conundrum is absolutely for you. Don’t expect anything as quotable or memorable as GLaDOS or Aperture. Just enjoy the toys that Swift and friends have given you.
Final Verdict: 3 out of 5. The best place to get the PC version is obviously Steam.