Quantum Conundrum Review

There’s a moment in the original Portal when everything goes off the rails. After hours of test chambers in which players are diligently taught how to use more and more portal-based ideas, everything breaks down, the hand-holding stops, and you’re forced to puzzle your way through the toughest rooms in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center with no help — nothing but your own wits.

Quantum Conundrum‘s marketing repeatedly drew on its connection to Portal before its release, always making special note of Kim Swift’s role on that game, and so I don’t feel I’m mistaken in comparing the two outright. Where Portal achieves its greatest moments by letting you off the chain, Quantum Conundrum fails to ever quite do so. And because of this, a very clever first-person puzzler never really reaches its full potential — it feels like the start of something bigger, a game we haven’t actually gotten a chance to play yet.

Quantum Conundrum: PC (reviewed, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: June 26, 2012
MSRP: $14.99

Here’s how Quantum Conundrum works: You, a child portrayed from a first-person viewpoint, enter your mad scientist uncle’s house. He’s missing and apparently got sucked into another dimension, but he can still talk to you and guide you. You grab his dimension-shifting invention and go on a quest to restart the mansion’s massive generators to bring him back. To do so, you need to solve puzzles by switching between four dimensions, each with different properties. Fluffy dimension makes heavy things light; Heavy dimension makes light things heavy; Slow-Mo dimension slows down time; Reverse Gravity dimension reverses gravity.

When it works, there’s quite a bit of interesting novelty in Quantum Conundrum. You need to move a safe to activate a pressure plate, say, but the safe is too heavy to pick up — well, switch to Fluffy dimension, grab the safe, carry it where you need it and switch back. Before long, you’ll be using dimensions in conjunction with each other, but you can only be in one dimension at a time. So you can pick up a safe in Fluffy dimension but you can’t slow down time in Slow-Mo in order to get it where you need it. But you can pick it up, throw it, switch to slow-mo and beat it to its destination. These are the kinds of things you’ll need to do throughout the game.

Sometimes, the puzzles get to be really clever. One room has you literally playing slow-motion catch with yourself in order to beat security systems and move an object across a room. The first time you pick up a safe, throw it, slow it down, leap onto it and then ride it across a chasm by carefully switching gravity back and forth, Quantum Conundrum feels really brilliant.

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