Quantun Conundrum Review (XBLA)
Quantum Conundrum is a puzzle game, very much in the same vein as a game like Portal or Portal 2. That makes sense considering the lead designer of the game is Kim Swift who worked on Portal and left Valve during the development of Portal 2. The comparisons to that franchise are obvious and it’s easy to believe many of these ideas might have ended up in a Portal game if she had stayed with Valve longer. Many items have direct comparisons, such as buttons that dispense items to help solve the puzzles, pads that work similarly to faith plates, even objects that bear a resemblance to the Companion Cube. I’ll try to minimize the Portal comparisons and note this review may contain some slight puzzle spoilers as well.
What You Need to Know
In Quantum Conundrum you play as the 12 year old nephew of Professor Fitz Quadrangle, a scientist who has been working on a number of experiments through the years. His latest deals with the ability to change the environment around you by switching into different dimensions. A problem with his latest experiment traps him in a pocket dimension with no memory of how he got there. He can still communicate with you and see what you’re doing but it’s up to you to get through his labyrinthine mansion to rescue him.
To do so use a device called the Inter-dimensional Shift Device (I.S.D); this allows you to change the environment around you into one of four different dimensions. You’ll travel through the mansion solving numerous physics based puzzles, collecting batteries to power your device and causing plenty of havoc on your own.
Quantum Conundrum is completely based off the ability to change the environment around you by manipulating it in different dimensions. There are four dimensions available at any one time; the fluffy dimension, the heavy dimension, the slow dimension and the anti-gravity dimension. These dimensions all have very different effects on the environment and objects in those environments. You’ll have to learn how to use them all, often times going back and forth between dimensions very quickly, to solve the puzzles in the game.
As an example, one puzzle has a safe guarded by lasers. You need the safe to press a switch which opens a door. You can switch to the fluffy dimension and grab the safe, but if you try to move it through the lasers it will get blasted. So you have to grab the safe, throw it towards the lasers and switch to the slow dimension. In the next room is a beam that controls the lasers and you have to drop a box to break the beam, run back into the other room where the safe is and catch it by switching back to the fluffy dimension once it’s passed through the lasers.
That is a fairly simple solution to a puzzle, but there are plenty of other things that will require multiple dimensional switches. None of them are extremely difficult, but some will require a few minutes of thought. There were numerous times where I’d see a puzzle and would try some different things only to have them fail. Then, all of the sudden, something in the environment would trigger a thought that would lead to the solution of the puzzle. Sometimes there will be multiple ways to solve the puzzle, some of them maybe not even envisioned by the developers. Seeing the different environments and figuring out the different ways to manipulate the environment is very satisfying. It’s very much the same feeling you get when you figure out the solution to puzzles in games like Portal.
Omnipresent Narrator is a Helper
Professor Quadrangle is basically a voice in your head. You hear him talking to you throughout the game, providing background on the mansion itself and some of the experiments he’s conducted over the years. Not only that, he will actually help you solve some of the puzzles in the game. He doesn’t do this by directly giving you the answers to the puzzles, but rather explaining you might need another battery if you go into an area you shouldn’t be in. He’ll also help with some of the timing based puzzles by letting you know when you should launch yourself in the air or make a jump at a certain point. It’s just enough help that you don’t find yourself annoyed that he’s solving the puzzles for you and he’ll only offer input after you’ve attempted things yourself and failed a number of times.
Yes, I Did Land on that Safe!
There was one thing I didn’t like about the original Portal game, timing based puzzles that required pinpoint precision. That’s why I played Portal on the PC and not on the Xbox. Quantum Conundrum takes those points and makes entire sections and puzzles based on platforming. The problem is, platforming in first person doesn’t really work. The problem is magnified greatly when you’re required to jump from a small object, like a safe, onto another small object. It’s incredibly hard to gauge exactly where you are at any given point and when you can’t see where you’re going, landing is even more difficult.
Sometimes there were different solutions to those puzzles that could be done without as much of the platforming. For example, at one point there are four safes that get spit out over a fan with lasers above and below you. You have to flip back and forth between the fluffy dimension to the slow dimension to keep these safes from getting too close to the lasers while jumping across the pit. I tried literally a couple dozen times to jump across the safes before almost giving up in frustration. At one point during a restart I noticed there were some couches in the room so I grabbed one. I threw the couch across the pit and used that to fling myself across completely avoiding the platforming portion of the puzzle.
That’s just one example of how the platforming can be completely frustrating. I was able to find a way around it that time, but many times you’re just going to have to power through those sections and hope they don’t become to frustrating.
The comparisons to the Portal franchise are hard to miss and some people may even consider this to be a knock-off of franchise. When taken on its own, however, it’s another fantastic physics-based, puzzle game with some good humor, a very appealing visual presence and some puzzles that are just plain fun to solve. The dimension shifting adds a layer of depth that works really well and learning to manipulate those environments will definitely lead to some creative solutions to many of the challenges presented. There is plenty of replay value, especially for achievement seekers looking to gain some of the harder achievements. Speed runs are built in for people looking to find the perfect solution to each puzzles. Quantum Conundrum combines many of the elements from the Portal franchise with the new dimension shifting to create another very good game that fans of Portal and physics-based, puzzle games will definitely want to play.
Review copy of the game provided by Square Enix.
Played through the entire campaign.
Total Play Time: 7 Hours