Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quantum Conundrum Review: Physics-ally entertaining - Gaming Examiner

Quantum Conundrum - logo

Quantum Conundrum is the latest first-person puzzle title from Kim Swift and publisher Square Enix. Swift, the lead-designer of the now famous ‘Portal’ brings a new animated style and intriguing gameplay mechanics to the ever-evolving world of FPS puzzle games, this time with Airtight Games.
What Quantum Conundrum brings to the player are four new dimensions, bending and breaking the common-laws of physics to allow players to solve complicated and engrossing puzzles in order to rescue a lost uncle. Armed with a ‘Inter-dimensional Shift Device (ISD), players slowly make their way through Professor Fitz Quadwrangle’s mansion in order to save him from certain doom.
The game brings new aspects to the common-puzzler, players are tasked with understanding all properties of the objects that are laid before them in each room. How much the object weighs or the speed at which an object can travel, are two examples of the common properties that will help you solve puzzles. These factors change however depending on which ‘dimension’ you set on your ISD. The ‘fluffy’ dimension will allow you to move object with a large mass, while the ‘heavy dimension’ will increase the mass of an object. You can use these dimensions to bend the alter the state of each room, allowing you to move obstacles onto pressure plates or hurl yourself across the room as you surf an object to safety.
Helping you along the way, while often times mocking you, is your Uncle (voiced by John De Lancie). The puzzles in the game range from simple to very complex and offer a wide range of uses for your ISD. The skill-level involved is a gradual increase and each trick you learn will help you later on in the game. The title isn’t a roadblock but the later puzzles in the game did take a lot of trial and error at times, and I did find myself stuck more than once.
The puzzles are the main focus of the game and they serve their purpose brilliantly, though I felt that the mansion itself was a character that was never fully developed. As I slowly made my way through the house I kept wishing the next room would be the beginning of something grand. That I would stumble onto lost secrets that would later become inside-jokes or hidden treats. The mansion is the backdrop of the game and is where you spend all of your time, the house didn’t make me want to explore it, it made me want to get through it. It lacked character, both in design and personality. The rooms offered up interesting puzzles and a constant challenge though the art-direction of the rooms felt bland and the rooms seemed to blend together at times.
As for the story of the game it’s as simple as one can be, which isn’t a negative point. In fact it only highlights the gameplay that Quantum Conundrum doesn’t rely on overly complicated story-arcs or cheap tactics to excite the player. Your Uncle is missing and you have to find him, but with such a basic backdrop there is room for interesting side-notes, plot-twists or secondary characters that could be developed. Although this was teased, the completion of the story left me a little underwhelmed.
That being said, the game is at it’s heart a puzzle-game and Swift still sets the bar for other puzzlers to follow. Quantum Conundrum was an intellectual workout, it’s humor kept me from wanting to hurl myself under a heavy-dimensional throw pillow and the challenges were balanced and well designed. All that was missing was ‘sparkle’, the finishing touches that come with a longer development time and possibly a larger budget. It’s the perfect frame-work for a fantastic game, but lacked the fine-gloss to make it so. Quantum Conundrum is an extremely well-thought out puzzle-game and the new animated style and imaginative gameplay mechanics were intuitive and brought life to a simple story.

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