Genre: First Person Puzzle Game
Release Date: June 21st, 2012
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Retail: $15 USD (Steam)
Platform: PC ( Also available for Xbox 360 and PS3)
Quantum Conundrum is a light-hearted puzzle FPS that never takes itself too seriously. With Kim Swift as the lead developer, it draws plenty of comparisons to Portal. I feel that Quantum Conundrum manages to have plenty of personality and quirks to be a different game than Portal, despite the obvious similarities. Again, Quantum Conundrum is a game where science has screwed up everything, and you need to use your crazy uncle’s latest gadget to make it right.
In this game, that gadget is a glove that lets you change dimensions, and this is where the similarities to Portal begin to end. You have four dimensions to choose from (Fluffy, Heavy, Slow, Reverse Gravity), but typically only two or three at any given time. Objects around you are affected by dimensional changes, but you and machinery are not. You switch back and forth between dimensions constantly in order to solve the puzzles. I liked the concept, but the execution of solving a puzzle is just turning on a dimension and throwing stuff around until you get it right. The answers to the puzzles are almost always immediately clear, you just have to start moving things around.
The fluffy and heavy dimensions are based around quick timing between the two and throwing safes around, while the other two slow time and reduce gravity. The latter two dimensions usually incorporate the first two in some way, and things can feel a bit more like a platformer. Your goal is to open a door, by getting past lasers or generating electricity. It gets challenging in a few areas, but nothing in the game feels impossible or unfair. The gameplay also never evolves past this point, no matter how many dimensions you have. Like Portal, the game also features very light platforming and twitchy reaction times. Other players disliked these sections, but I enjoyed them.
The best thing about the puzzles is that none of them are trial-and-error when it comes to death. You can get by nearly every puzzle without dying. This makes Quantum Conundrum a bit shorter than other games, but a lot less frustrating too. Sometimes I chose to die to look at the clever death screens, which are “things you’ll never be able to do”. The humor in Quantum Conundrum is hit or miss. You’ll see a few meme references and silly things, but it feels forced at times.
Quantum Conundrum looks okay. The mansion may as well be a character on its own, as it has odd dimensions and machinery that cover the walls. The game was designed around the same few objects, so things can get rather dull. This design choice even has an in-game explanation: your uncle Quadwrangle (the owner of the mansion and technology) likes to clone things over and over. I played the PC version, and was slightly disappointed when I could only change my graphical resolution. The game uses lots of motion blur instead of anti-aliasing, so it looks better in motion than in these screenshots.
Uncle Quadwrangle is my favorite thing about the game, and his little comments make the game a lot more fun. His sardonic words of encouragement never quite live up to GLaDOS’s lines, but I enjoyed his semi-insane character. I can’t say much about the plot at all, which is just to restore the power to the mansion.
Along the way you learn about the mansion’s history, the dimensions, and other odd things. I think the story suffered because it had no real conflict. It all ends rather abruptly with a shallow plot twist. With your only adversary being the next puzzle, the game a lot more kid friendly, and a lot more boring. The story felt more like a placeholder to give the puzzles and setting a sequence. The ending is abrupt, and I’m wondering if content was taken out of the game? Square Enix is selling a season pass for DLC, so this seems like a way to get you buying more.
After I finished playing, I felt like Quantum Conundrum is a game that struggled to reach it’s potential. Nothing in the game is particularly bad, and nothing in the game is outstanding either. The game need a few more characters, more quality puzzles, and a better story. Your good old Uncle Quadwrangle is funny at times, but he can only do so much as the only speaking character. Quantum Conundrum ends up as a fun few hours, but ultimately forgettable.