Since the announcement of Airtight Games‘ Quantum Conundrum at PAX Prime 2011, I have been wondering how “Portal-like” this new title would be. Kim Swift, co-creator of Valve’s physic-based puzzle hit, was at the helm, bringing her experience to bear. Each and every preview of this game has reminded us of her past work, and with good reason. The similarities, a high tech device for manipulating the environment and the omnipresence of weighted cubes, had many convinced this title would be a simple clone. Thankfully, Quantum Conundrum provides enough unique material to stand on its own in the first-person puzzle genre.
The game opens with the voice of Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, our protagonist’s mad scientist uncle, who has somehow been transported to an alternate dimension thanks to an experiment gone wrong. Quadwrangle’s latest invention, the Interdimensional Shift Device, is quickly introduced, sending players off to traverse puzzle-like rooms and free Quadwrangle from the dimension that traps him. The entire game takes place inside of the Quadwrangle Mansion, a series of rooms connected by corridors and stairwells.
The only real mode within the game is Single Player, but the addition of a level select adds some replay value. There is no multiplayer offering with this title, but the Leaderboard is nice for comparing your stats with other players. I wonder why a cooperative mode was not included, as it would be an easy enough fit for this type of game.
Quantum Conundrum, much like the Portal series, is a first person puzzle game. The object is to move from room to room with the Interdimensional Shift Device utilizing four different dimensions (fluffy, heavy, slow and reverse-gravity) to complete various puzzles. Most require manipulating objects like chairs and boxes to trigger switches or open doors. Anyone who played Portal will be right at home with the controls and physics of Quantum Conundrum.
Levels and puzzles are well-conceived. The difficulty ramps up at a steady pace, requiring the use of multiple dimensions consecutively. As an example, players might have to use the Fluffy dimension to pick up a chair, throw it and quickly trigger the Heavy dimension so the window to the next room breaks, allowing progression. There are so many creative solutions to puzzles in Quantum Conundrum that I found myself trying many different combos just to see how things played out.
The game has a very cartoon-like hand drawn appearance. The Victorian style mansion lends itself well to the art style, and everything has a polished look. The various rooms ooze charm. It’s a little off putting that each puzzle room carries such detail when the corridors and hallways connecting them are so bland. This could be intentional to keep focus on the larger play spaces, but it still comes off cheap.
The voice work was superb, with John de Lancie of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, in the role of Professor Quadwrangle, takes little jabs at you as he narrates the adventure. The writing was a valid attempt to recreate the excellent feel/humor of the Portal series, but GLaDOS and the Aperture Labs are still more entertaining. In 5.1 surround sound, all of the rooms came to life. From the whizzing of an opening door to the hum of a fan, it all seemed real.
Some puzzles are downright hard, and having to hear Quadwrangle spout the same line over and over is very annoying. I searched the menu to see if he could be turned off, at least until the next room, but I had no luck. The uniqueness of each room is pretty cool, but why have such ho hum and boring corridors connecting them? It is like these were an afterthought; just something to tie the puzzles together.
The complaints here are trivial; as Quantum Conundrum is an excellent puzzle game. The similarities to Portal are plenty, with good reason. Valve shouldn’t be offended, as a game this good can only be a compliment. Game play is solid enough to keep players coming back for some time. The incoming downloadable content can only add to this title’s replay value.
Here’s the Rundown:
+Great Gameplay and tight controls.
+Awesome cartoon look and feel.
+Excellent puzzle/level design.
-Repeated lines get annoying.
-Connecting rooms and corridors look all too similar and boring.
-Why no Multi or Co-op play?
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Quantum Conundrum was developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix. The game was released on June 21st and is available though Steam on PC with an MSRP of $14.99. A copy was provided by the publisher for review.