Jul 22, 2012Warning: this review is a blatant rip-off of Yahtzee's review of QC because I can't be asked to write my own.
Quantum Conundrum is a game available on Steam that comes to us from Kim Swift, ex-Valve luminary who brought us the gameplay behind Portal. But it means that an immediate comparison is drawn between Quantum Conundrum and Portal, both being quirky first-person physics puzzlers with repetitive environments, a voiceover of ambiguous motivation, and an almost fetishistic approach to the concept of science; although Quantum Conundrum takes a slightly more circuitous route that overlooks The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
You are a small boy who's been sent to stay with his inventor uncle, Professor Quadrangle, but arrives to find him absent in all but voice and needing you to rescue both him and the house from a strange dimensional flux. And after a few dialogue lines, I realized that the eccentric, morally questionable genius with a prominent Q in their name was voiced by John de Lancie of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. Blimey, that's about as typecast as you can possibly get.
So the puzzles are driven by a handheld device called the Portal gu - oh, wait. Actually, a sort of Power Glove thing that allows you to shift between four alternate dimensions (read: screen filters) that alter the physical properties of the objects around you. It's kind of like a glove-mounted **** dispenser except it alters the physical properties of things other than your own legs. There's the piña colada dimension, where everything is light and fruity; the Black Russian dimension, where things sit much more heavily and you start clutching your head complaining about your ex-wife; the absinthe dimension, where everything floats off into the sky to come crashing apocalyptically down the following morning; and the slow motion dimension, where this analogy kind of breaks down. Combining these four states of matter, you must use the available loose objects to depress switches, bypass hazards, and transport yourself to the exit door. But unlike Portal, the nature of the four dimensions makes it a lot easier to find multiple solutions to complex puzzles. And by that I mean, hope you've played a lot of Feces Tetris, because it's time to stack ****
Since you're all so crushingly obvious, you're probably thinking: "A comedy puzzle game by a Portal creator voiced by Q from Star Trek? My money could not exit my wallet fast enough." But slow down, moneybags, because I don't actually like Quantum Conundrum. And considering the decent writing and talent, it had to work pretty hard to reach that point.
Quantum Conundrum is a game that wouldn't have gotten very far into its elevator pitch. Four words in - "first person precision platforming" - and the CEO will be hammering on the call button like it will somehow make his heart start working again. Jumping on really obnoxiously small platforms from a first-person perspective where your feet exist in some hypothetical netherplane is like successfully penetrating a really splintery glory hole blindfolded and with a ten-foot run-up. But QC just loves making us jump from one flying piece of small, uneven furniture to another to cross its deadly pits. What's especially obnoxious as that you need to get through each level without dying to 100% the game, and you might glide through 90% of the puzzles in a level like a diarrhea surfboard before dying fifty times at the end trying to jump onto an inflatable sofa held aloft by a giant fan and crossed fingers.
On that note, if you are basing a precision game around a physics engine, then it would be nice if that engine could be relied upon to do the same thing each time. There's one bit where you have to use zero gravity in slow mode to make four boxes hover at the right height to make stepping stones, but they only fell in a pattern that would allow such a thing about 20% of the time, usually rolling merrily around for a while like D20s on a fat nerd's primary flab shelf. An object thrower might have flung end tables in a consistent arc ninety thousand times, but the moment I activated slow motion to jump on one it caught on a ledge and went spinning off into a ring of hungry wolves. Sometimes buttons wouldn't work 'cause the power would get most of the way along the wire to whatever it was supposed to activate and then stop and zip right back. That's right, my frame rate was so bad that it was literally interfering with the speed of light.
"Wait a minute," I hear you rudely interrupt, "if you suspected your frame rate was sticking its **** up the physics engine, did it not occur to you to lower the graphical settings?" Of course it occurred to me. Just a shame it didn't occur to Airtight Games, 'cause there are no **** graphical settings. And who the **** needs motion blur? Anyway, I've got to score this so I guess I should give it a 4 out of 10.… Expand
Sep 13, 2012It easy to compare this first person puzzler to Valve's Portal, especially if you when you find out that Quantum Conundrum was made by the lead designer of the original Portal. Which also explains why , despite the shabby platforming, it's a pretty enjoyable puzzler. [September 2012, p.87]
Aug 13, 2012Once you earn and understand how to flick between the dimensions (on all four shoulder buttons) Conundrum will have you calling people over to the TV to boast how "S-M-R-T" you are. That joy is offset, however, by Airtight Games' insistence on pinpoint first-person platforming, something that's a source of intermittent frustration. [September 2012, p74]