Quite a Conundrum indeed
Quantum Conundrum embarks players on a problem solving quest involving the magic of science. The game feels familiar if you have played Portal, an unsurprising fact if you know that the creative mind behind the game is the same as Portal’s lead designer, Kim Swift. Both Portal and Quantum Conundrum share many of the same gameplay elements, most notably a device that defies the laws of physics, tons of puzzle elements, a first-person view and an eccentric narrator. The voice of Professor Quadwrangle might not be as amusing as Glad0s from Portal, but he is certainly just as helpful.
The game starts out with a creative and - for a game of puzzles and mystery - appropriate cut scene filled with drawings on blueprints. A nameless woman worries over her brother becoming lonely in his big mansion and sends her equally nameless silent 12-year-old son to visit his uncle. Her brother, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle (voiced by John de Lancie, best known for his role as Q in the Star Trek series), is a brilliant but slightly mad-scientist who lives alone conducting experiments and discovering new inventions. The boy arrives just as a dangerous science experiment goes wrong and Quadwrangle becomes trapped in an alternate dimension; he loses his memory of what happened and must guide his nephew to rescuing him.
Unfortunately, you don’t actually see your uncle performing the test, but items in the room begin to change in weight and time, demonstrating the experiment going out of control. This is a bit of a shame as it could have been fun seeing Quadwrangle disappear into an alternate dimension.
The dimensions are in your hands
The controls are easy to pick up; the boy is able to move around freely, jump, lift objects, and interact with switches in each level. Similarly to Portal, things need to be done in order to unlock the door to finish a level and continue. You can also die by falling into bottomless pits, toxic water and by being hit by lasers.
The glove you acquire is called the Interdimensional Shift Device (IDS) and it allows you to shift between dimensions. I thought it was a really interesting concept to have to change the properties of objects to complete puzzles. The objects range from cardboard boxes to safes and different pieces of furniture. The first dimension you get to play with is called the Fluffy dimension. By switching to that dimension, you can make a heavy and bulky safe as light as a feather. The trick is to make the safe light enough to carry and throw it towards a glass window only to change it back to its normal weight right before it hits the glass. The result is very enjoyable, very satisfying. In the Heavy dimension, everything is extremely heavy, the Slow dimension reduces time, and the Reverse Gravity dimension is just as it sounds: gravity is flipped.
The earlier puzzles are straight-forward and help you to discover the various possibilities of the Fluffy and Heavy dimensions. As more dimensions get involved, the more complex things get. There may be different ways to finish a puzzle and it is a game onto itself figuring out what ways these are. I often felt that I had completed a puzzle - after some intense thinking - in a way that the game had not originally intended me to complete it, but it worked nonetheless. Equally often, I was just happy enough to leave such an infuriating yet challenging area, satisfied that I did what I had come there to do.
When the Slow dimension is was introduced, I began to think of the kinds of difficult puzzles that might be ahead of me and the amount of creativity involved in creating them. Some areas are frustrating and involve precise timing but there is a lot of trial and error involved too. But when everything comes together, it is tremendous fun. One room has a massive gap between you and the door that you are trying to reach. In the center, devices called DOLLI’s are throwing furniture across the room. Slowing down time allows you to jump across each of the many chairs and tables to get across. I fell many times in this room and it is clear that you need patience and be prepared to do the same thing over and over again. Some levels don’t give you all of the dimensions either, removing some of the more obvious solutions from the table.
A novel experience
Quantum Conundrum's graphics remind me of a Pixar movie. Even the paintings on the walls of Professor Quadwrangle’s mansion resembled that of an animated movie. I wished they used more imagination behind each level though, as most looked the same or at least very similar. The puzzles are always different, requiring different functions, but overall the rooms sport the same colors, book shelves and statues.
I enjoyed the experience using dimensions to complete puzzles in Quantum Conundrum. The storyline could have used some more work and the characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would like, but the puzzles are clever and creative. They can leave you either stumped or excited once you find the solution and that is the hallmark for any good puzzlers. Portal fans in particular need to pick up this game, but it’s a good mind exercise for anyone who likes a challenge.
Fun, creative puzzles that will bend your mind.
Not for those without patience