Airtight Games took on Portal 2 co-creator Kim Swift as Project Lead for Quantum Conundrum. As a result, Portal forms a lot of the essence here – and yet, so much of it’s own creativity just seeps through. Labortatory setting? Check. Erudite albeit sarcastic background narrator? Check. Using a prototype device to alter properties of space and time to progress through a series of switch-button pressing exercises? Check. Quirkiness and innocent, all-encompassing charm? Check and check. However, Quantum Conundrum harnesses an altogether different energy to draw you in.
You play nephew to the self-proclaimed genius that is Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. Through heavy implication and sarcasm, Quadwrangle outlines his disdain for his nephew’s sudden visits, but there’s no malice in his intentions. Just a well to-do dude who wants to do what he loves to do: inventing. His newest experiment, however, sends the manor into disarray and makes the Professor amnesiac of what happened prior to the experiment. With the help of the IDS, a special glove for switching between different dimensions when “rifts” are detected, you hence set about to free your uncle. Perhaps in the process, solve the mystery of just what happened earlier.
A simple story, told as light-heartedly as possible yet played totally straight. The manor itself isn’t the most gothic place, coming off as a playhouse more often than not. That doesn’t excuse the danger present, though. Your objective is to reactivate the four generators within the house, and get the main power back online. Easy, right? Unfortunately, dimensional rifts have been opened up everywhere, and you have to make use of your glove to survive. Which is no easy task when you have to pitch safes across rooms, leap across boundaries, manipulate lasers and just all-around not die (sound familiar?).
The difference here is your dimensional switching glove. It allows you to enter dimensions where the properties of reality change. There are four different dimensions you can shift to: Fluffy, Heavy, Slow and Reverse Gravity. Fluffy makes everything 10 times lighter so you can chug heavy objects (often needed for the bigger switches) with ease. The Heavy dimension does the opposite, making things 10 times heavier. With this, even ordinary objects can be used to hit the switches required due to their increased weight. Slow renders everything 10 times slower than you, thus helping you move at bullet-time-esque speeds. Finally, Reverse Gravity does just that. Everything that’s not tied down will go flying.
Positioning is extremely important here, and the split-second timing needed to engineer that even more so. It’s never over-complicated or over-bearing. Often puzzles require elementary understanding of the dimensions at hand, and the environment you’re in. And since you can only use one dimension at a time, it’s even more vital to be patient and analyze the situation before charging in at it. Prof. Quadwrangle will often chime in over the intercom to tell you what’s happening, and at times provide subtle hints as how to proceed. Nothing is too overwhelmingly challenging, and you won’t be scratching your head for long.
The graphics aren’t your typical AAA, blockbuster visuals. However it’s a well-executed case in minimalism. Maybe not as polished, sweeping or exquisite as Portal’s visuals (or with even half a brilliant soundtrack), but consider that this is an arcade title. In fact, the game’s entire existence is amazing. How did Airtight Games create such an expansive puzzler with the resources at hand?
That being said, there are many who might find the Portal similarities – and there are many – to be all too-pervasive. Some might find it hard to step down from such a high standard into a world like this. But really, that’s to ignore the genuine charm inhabiting Quantum Conundrum. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s smart and offers a large amount of playability. It’s a tribute.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Expansive puzzler. Pleasant visuals. Game exhibits a genuine charm. Large amount of playability.
Lot of similarities to Portal. Offers a decent amount of challenge but nothing difficult.
It's fast, it's fun, it's smart and offers a large amount of playability. It's a tribute.
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