by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
A game of subatomic proportions
Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark, despite being a contender for the best game name of all time, is too long to keep typing out, so I’ll just refer to it as Schrodinger’s Cat from here on. It’s a puzzle platformer with several twists on the basic ideas of the genre. It takes place on a subatomic level, on a single atom in a single universe. You play as the eponymous cat, who arrives at the Particle Zoo to find a catastrophic event taking place.
All of the primitive particles that are usually enclosed safely for people to visit have escaped. So now there are quarks, leptons, gluons and bosons scattered all over the zoo. It’s up to SC to help restore order to the chaotic location by getting all of the particles back in their place, and to find out what happened in the first place.
The idea behind the real life physics thought experiment ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ is fairly complicated, but I’ll try and give you a quick lesson. You have a cat, a flask of poison and a radioactive source inside a box. If a monitor detects radioactivity, then the flask is shattered, killing the cat. Eventually, the cat is thought to be both alive and dead, until the box is opened and the situation is observed, when reality collapses into the cat either being alive or dead.
Alive and dead, good and bad
Don’t think I’m just trying to eat up words, there’s a point to all this. Just like Schrodinger’s Cat is alive and dead, the game’s various elements are both good and bad. For instance, the voice acting is good. The script is well written, and it’s well delivered. SC himself is mostly clueless, but he’s adept at jumping around and solving puzzles to help save the zoo. However, when not conversing with another character, his lines are repeated all too often and start to become boring. Equally, the dialogue is riddled with clever physics references and puns. However, if you never took an interest in particle physics, most of it will go straight over your head.
The gameplay suffers from the same idea. Schrodinger’s Cat is played with just the keyboard (you are told from the start, “Throw your mouse away, this is a cat’s game”). You use the WASD keys to move, and the arrow keys are used to perform abilities. Each direction corresponds to one type of quark that you collect. Up quarks are used to traverse upwards. Down quarks are used for destruction. Top quarks are used for protection, and Bottom quarks provide a solid ground to stand on.
It takes three quarks to perform an action. So pressing the up arrow key three times gives you a little helicopter that will lift you up to higher places. Pressing the down arrow will drill a hole through breakable ground. However things start to get interesting when you mix them together. Three bottoms will give you a solid platform, but using a couple of Ups and a Bottom will give you a little Mega Man style gliding platform. Using some Down quarks and an Up quark will create a destructive missile you can fire long distances.
There are fourteen different combinations in total, with some available to you from the start and some being unlocked as you progress through the story. It’s a unique little mechanic that’s fairly fun to perform. However, good always seems to come with the bad. The puzzle solving using various quark combinations is good, but the platforming isn’t great. It’s far too floaty, and there’s a weird sense of momentum that makes accurate jumping difficult. On more than one occasion I used some quarks to reach a high ledge, and instead of jumping off that one onto a higher one, I accidentally fell back down again. Once you’ve used quarks, they don’t respawn, so I was left with no other option than to reload the checkpoint.
It was frustrating to get past a few obstacles and then realise that you don’t have the right quarks with you to pass the next one. When you have plenty of quarks following you (there’s no limit), it’s fun to look through the level and quickly traverse it. The puzzle comes from when you have limited numbers of them, and sometimes you can’t see far enough ahead to figure out what kind you have to save up. There’s a zoomed out version of the map, but it doesn’t show the whole thing.
Good outweighs the bad
Thankfully, there is more good than bad in Schrodinger’s Cat. Levels are randomly generated, so each time you play you’ll have a slightly different layout, and as such the puzzles will be different. The character design is lovely, and you’ll even want to give the enemies a little squeeze when you see them. The sound is good too, with some catchy music, and the aforementioned voice acting. Your little quark buddies cheer when you pick them up and cry out as they struggle to lift you up to the next ledge.
Overall, Schrodinger’s Cat is a cute game with some unique and interesting mechanics. Not everyone will understand the humour, but you don’t have to in order to enjoy playing. There are frustrations and annoyances here and there, but the good outweighs the bad for the most part.
Unique puzzle mechanics, lovely character design and good voice acting
Some levels become frustrating, poor platforming