Quantum Conundrum Preview: From Portals to New Dimensions

Back in 2007, a small game called Portal took the gaming world by surprise with its ingenious premise of using a combination of portals, crates, turrets and buttons to create increasingly complex environmental puzzles. Five years later, there’s still nothing quite like Portal, save for its sequel. At least not until Quantum Conundrum.

Developed by Air Tight Games and led by Portal co-creator, Kim Swift, Quantum Conundrum is an environmental puzzle game that challenges players to think outside of the normal rules of reality. Using the power of an Interdimensional Shift Device, players can shift between a variety of different dimensions, each one with their own set of rules governing an object’s weight, gravity, density, and more. One dimension even causes all items to move in slow-mo.

To put all of this dimensional shifting into context, Quantum Conundrum places players in the shoes of a young child who gets dropped off at his uncle’s manor. Unfortunately, his uncle, the eccentric, but brilliant Professor Fitzquadrangle, is nowhere to be found. Despite not being physically present, Quadrangle manages to find a way to communicate with his nephew via a security uplink and provides much of the comic relief and motivation as he guides the player through his manor, not much unlike GLaDOS from Portal.

In all, there were four dimensions on display in our demo. In the fluffy dimension, objects weigh next to nothing, and even normally heavy objects like safes can be picked up and thrown with relative ease. The flip side of that coin is the heavy dimension. Even small objects become incredible heavy and dense; able to withstand hazards that would normally obliterate any object.

Then there is the aforementioned slow-mo dimension, in which everything moves very slowly, except for the player. So for example, if you were standing on a button that removes a wall of lasers, activated slow-mo dimension, then stepped off the button, chances are you can make it through the laser wall before it even comes back up.

Finally there is the reverse gravity dimension, which as you might guess, is a dimension that reverses gravity. The interesting application of this though is continuously switching between normal and reverse gravity in order to propel a moving object forward. Since the gravity doesn’t affect forward momentum, it’s possible to ferry a crate from one end of the room to another using this tactic.

In the hands-on demo I played, I got to mess around with the first three dimensions. Like all great puzzle games, Quantum Conundrum first introduces you to the puzzle solving techniques before throwing the truly mindbending puzzles your way. The first couple of rooms teach you the basics: Use fluffy dimension to pick up heavy objects, heavy dimension to block lasers, and you can even combine the two by throwing an object in fluffy dimension, then switching to heavy dimension while the object is still airborne to crash through windows.

Each time you enter a new room, your ability to switch between dimensions is reset. Only by finding special dimensional batteries and placing them into a battery holder are you able to utilize that dimension. At times, the challenge is figuring out which dimensions you actually need to use, since sometimes the number of slots in the battery holder is less than the number of batteries in the level.

The most impressive puzzle of the demo involved using Fluffy, Slow-Mo, and Reverse Gravity dimensions all together in order to cross a large gap. In order to accomplish such a feat, the player would have to pick up a safe in fluffy dimension, throw it, immediately switch to slow-mo, jump on the safe, then use reverse gravity dimension to float the safe over to the other side of the gap.

Mind bending as it is, Quantum Conundrum is a heck of a good time and, like Portal, is an innovative experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. Quantum Conundrum releases first on Steam on June 21, with PSN and XBLA versions following soon after in the summer.

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