Quantum Conundrum Review

But the game is held back by its own rules. Any time you enter a room, you know immediately what tools you’ll have to work with, since not every dimension is always available. Sometimes you’ll find batteries that give you access to other dimensions, and other times you’ll make do with what you have, but as you move through the campaign (it took me about four hours to beat), you come to know what will be expected of you in each puzzle before you start it.

The trouble is that there are four dimensions, but they’re not really all that useful in diverse ways. The Fluffy dimension means picking up heavy objects; occasionally, a fan will be involved (which often creates some really ingenious moments). In Heavy dimension, you’ll be using special pressure plates or dealing with laser beams. That each dimension really only has two uses means that the iterations of puzzles seems to run out before too long. This is especially problematic when you finally have access to all the dimensions at once, because Quantum Conundrum never gives you room to stretch. Or maybe the designers never really figured out innovative ways in which to make the dimensional abilities work together. Regardless, the result, eventually, is a lot of repetitive actions that are coupled together in different orders.

That’s not to say that the puzzles in Quantum Conundrum are bad, because they certainly aren’t. But repetition gets old. You’ll eventually find yourself assessing every puzzle within a moment or two — it’s not the brain work that makes the game challenging. It’s the irritating first-person platforming that has you repeatedly misjudging a jump, bumping your head on a bit of architecture and sliding off a moving platform, or falling off the front of a ledge.

This stuff piles up. There are moments in Quantum Conundrum in which I was tempted to quit, not because the solution wasn’t obvious, but because executing on it was highly frustrating. I’m a pretty deft gamer when it comes to such titles, having maxed out Portal and been a fan of games such as Metroid Prime. I should be able to handle a series of jumps across platforms. And I get frustrated when there are elements of the game that hold me back. Quantum Conundrum’s cleverness should be what’s challenging about the game, not the execution of elements I’ve been exposed to for the last decade.

Coming off like the middle child that doesn’t receive enough attention (with Portal and Portal 2 bookending it, perhaps), Quantum Conundrum tries desperately to capture the magic of the first Portal. We can imagine Swift and her team analyzing that game and then dressing up this one in its clothes. The number of similar elements between the two games is staggering, from the puzzle structure to the level design and even the condescending, disembodied narrator — and actually a little sad. Quantum Conundrum feels like a watered down attempt at copying a classic, and that, frankly, sucks. The gameplay here is, at times, brilliant; the potential, overflowing. There’s no reason Quantum Conundrum should be trying to ape Portal, especially because it really fails to do so.

I’ll say that I do recommend Quantum Conundrum for a number of elements. Coming off as a Lemony Snicket version of Aperture but with less subtext than that author provides, the world of Quantum Conundrum is a great family or children’s game (except for when executing on certain puzzles gets too difficult). It feels like Portal for children, with a brand of humor that fails to excite older audiences (but not for lack of trying from John de Lancie’s great VO). It’s also a first-person game that doesn’t include any shooting and it’s far from mindless. I’d love to see Quantum Conundrum pick up steam among kids, introducing them to the world of video games and the kind of things that can be done when you think critically and the solution to a problem doesn’t involve a headshot.

But for me? Quantum Conundrum falls a little short. Its novelty is nice, and with a four-hour runtime and an easygoing $15 price tag, I wouldn’t tell anyone to stay away. It’s still a game that rightly pushes the borders of what video games do with what they have, just like Portal did — it’s fresh in that way, and exciting in what it will inspire. If Quantum Conundrum gets a sequel, one that knows what it is and is secure enough not to be something else, it may well be an incredible game. It’s not there yet, though.

Pros:

  • Inventive game mechanics
  • Some really clever puzzles
  • A few moments that approach that “thinking with portals” kind of magic
  • Can occasionally be funny
  • PC version includes field of view controls
  • Great price
  • Geared toward a younger audience

Cons:

  • Lacking graphical controls for PC; felt like it chugged on my system for no reason
  • Puzzles tend to include many of the same elements in different sequences
  • First-person platforming elements can get very frustrating
  • Tries way too hard to be Portal, and pretty much fails
  • Geared toward a younger audience; humor falls flat a lot

Final Score: 70/100

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