When I sat down with Kim Swift at CES to play Quantum Conundrum, I dumbly turned to her and said, “Wow, this reminds me of Portal.” She laughed and replied, “that’s because I made Portal.” With that, I knew Quantum Conundrum had the potential to be the next big puzzler. And I was right. Although Portal has levels and obstacles that are more creative and appealing than QC‘s safes and sofas, QC has a unique gameplay mechanic and engaging story that lets it stand on its own legs.
Quantum Conundrum is about a little boy, whose crazy uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, gets himself stuck in a pocket dimension. The eccentric scientist doesn’t remember the exact details of what happened, but he watches over you (the nephew) and guides you through his rather interesting abode. He leads you to the Inter-Dimensional Shift glove that allows you to switch between four different dimensions: Fluffy (makes everything light), heavy (quite the opposite of fluffy), slow (slows down time), and reverse gravity (items float). You cannot access these dimensions simultaneously, but you can switch between them with the click of a button.
Each dimension is mapped to a L or R (bumper or trigger) button, which makes it simple to switch between them. Combining dimensional effects is essential for solving puzzles. For example, if you switch between slow and anti-gravity, you can make an item bounce up and down as you toss it across a room to activate a trigger. Each dimension shift has obvious and not-so-obvious environmental effects.
For example, the photo above (one of the pictures adorning the house walls) changes with dimension shifts. When in the slow time dimension, the fish and cat both look at their watches, and when in the reverse gravity dimension, the fish, water, and cat float. These small, yet amusing, details are consistent throughout the game.
My biggest beef with QC is the repetitive props. In Portal its companion cubes and dead turrets; here its furniture and safes. I would have liked to see some of the Professor’s crazy creations (which you discover via blueprints scattered around the house) as items used to solve puzzles. Another gripe: The levels give you just the right amount of items to solve puzzles. It would have been a better challenge to have various red herring items that you may not need (or used to reach a solution in a less rigid fashion).
Like Portal, Quantum Conundrum snuggles you in a blanket of witty dialogue, bubbly color schemes, and numerous challenges. Although I found myself frequently gripping my control screaming Swift’s name in rage, it was quickly followed by, “oh that makes sense.” The script writing is clever, too; the Professor, at one point in the game, says “don’t forget to breathe.” As I exhaled, I thought, “how’d they know?” QC‘s puzzles scale in difficulty from simple to insanely difficult–some took 30 minutes to complete. Based on your skill level, QC is a roughly 15 hour game. For $14.99, fifteen hours is a lot of content.
Overall, Quantum Conundrum isn’t quite Portal, but if you’re a fan of cerebral puzzle games, it’s worth a download.