Since the Portal titles are so popular, it was only a matter of time before a game came along that was similar. Quantum Conundrum is that game.
Quantum Conundrum (which shall henceforth be called QC) is a first person puzzle game. It was created by Kim Swift who worked on the original Portal so it’s no surprise that QC has many similarities to Portal. In QC you play as the 12 year old nephew of an eccentric scientist named Professor Fitz Quadwrangle (who is played by Q himself; John de Lancie). One day while making an unannounced visit to the professor’s mansion, an experiment goes wrong and traps the mad scientist in a pocket dimension. It’s up to you to save your uncle using a unique device that lets you change dimensions.
The featured mechanic of the game is the ability to shift to four different dimensions. In the fluffy dimension, objects become lighter, thus making it easier for you to carry them around. The opposite effect happens in the heavy dimension where things become ten times heavier. The slow dimension makes time move (you guessed it) slower, and the reverse gravity dimension sends objects toward the ceiling. Only inanimate objects are affected by the dimensional shifts and you remain unaffected. You’ll need to switch between these dimensions in order to get yourself and objects across the levels. For the most part the puzzles and their solutions aren’t very difficult to figure out but there are some good brain busters here and there.
While the idea behind the game is very cool, it’s marred by imprecise platforming. I’m going to come out and say it, platforming in a first person perspective just does not work right. The problem is that your character is nothing more than a floating camera. You have no physical body that inhabits the world. That means you cast no shadows and don’t have any feet. It’s very hard to make perfect jumps if you can’t tell where you’re going to land. For a game as platform heavy as QC, this is nearly game breaking. I consider myself a master at platforming games so you can imagine my frustration at not being able to make simple jumps because I couldn’t see where my character was in relation to the world. The real challenge of QC doesn’t come from trying to figure out how to solve puzzles but from trying to figure out where you’ll land after you jump. I’m not a religious man and don’t like having to make leaps of faith.
The presentation of QC is passable at best. Graphically and musically, nothing stands out. The graphics could have benefitted greatly if the game were more stylized. Granted that the game is more stylized than most others out there but it should have gone further to make itself really stand out. The lack of a unique art style is made worse by all of the recycled hallways and objects in the mansion.
Quantum Conundrum isn’t a bad game by any means. It has a lot of potential that is unfortunately ruined by poorly implemented platforming mechanics. It was also hard to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Though I tried my best not to, it was nearly impossible to not think of Portal when playing QC. Nearly everything in it reminded me of the Portal games. It’s clear that QC was trying to recreate the magic of that series but fell short since its puzzles, learning curve and script aren’t nearly as polished and well thought out. Here’s hoping that the following game in this series will fix things so that the great ideas that are present can truly shine.
Quantum Conundrum was developed by Airtight games and published by Square-Enix. It is available now on Playstation Network, Steam and Xbox Live Arcade.