Developer: Airtight Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: XBLA (Reviewed), PSN, PC
Genre: First-Person Puzzle
Airtight Games’ Quantum Conundrum is the brainchild of Kim Swift, best known as lead designer on Valves’ smash hit Portal. But while this means the game will undoubtedly draw comparisons to this generations best-known puzzle game, Quantum Conundrum is its own beast; this is an entirely original and unique first person puzzle game that will give the average players’ brain a good workout. But does that necessarily mean it’s worthwhile?
Players take control of a young boy visiting his uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, an eccentric inventor of weird and wonderful things. But upon your latest visit to his little slice of heaven – a huge twisted mansion – the Professor goes missing into another dimension and it’s up to you to make use of his experimental dimension-changing inventions to save the day.
The Professor talks to you throughout the game, and as much as I hate to compare games so heavily, it’s almost exactly like Portal in this sense. He is often condescending, but still humorously nice, and consistently funny. I must say though, the humour in this game is far better than that in the aforementioned puzzle extravaganza, with more subtle and mature comedy as opposed to annoying robotic overtones and childish jokes. This is intelligent comedy, making the experience very light-hearted and fun throughout.
Gameplay is delivered through first-person perspective, and the puzzles are solved using a mix of physics mechanics and often tedious timing requirements. I say tedious because although well thought-out, some buggy gameplay and unpolished environmental interaction makes for a lot of the puzzles to be repeated over and over, and sometimes come down to luck as much as skill and patience. But that said, when the puzzles do work correctly, they can be perfectly challenging, and highly entertaining.
Players use a mix of 4 different ‘dimensions’ to overcome their obstacles (operated through use of both Triggers and Bumpers on the controller). Different rooms and challenges can require vastly different ways to utilise up to all 4 of these, and you will always find new ways that they can interact and assist (or hinder) the others. Certain puzzles and problems in the game are extremely intelligent and sometimes difficult, but as a whole they are wonderfully paced and very fun and satisfying to play through and solve.
Visually, this game is quite appealing. It’s quite cartoony and bubbly, with caricatured character and environmental design. It plays in well with the Professors wild personality and sense of humour, giving a continuous ‘fun factor’ that never really lets up. What I really enjoyed though, was the way the environments change according to your gameplay dimensional shifts. All the textures instantly change to reflect the new world, as do the many paintings and portraits that litter the walls of the mansion. Some of these are very charming, others just wild. But all up, it’s a neat – if simple – mechanic that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the graphical individuality of the game.
There’s very little in the way of notable sound effects here, but they’re adequate for what they are. However, the voice work of John de Lancie as Professor Quadwrangle is exceptional. He delivers a great performance worthy of the comedic scripting of the game, which could have been disastrous in the wrong hands – or voice, as it were.
- Perfectly paced and challenging puzzles
- Quality sense of humor, expertly delivered
- Visually appealing
- Frustrating moments due to unpolished flaws
First person puzzle games generally have a tendency of higher quality, due to the depth that usually needs to go into the puzzle elements to make them work – or at least, work well. Quantum Conundrum definitely doesn’t skip on the quality of the gameplay, and as a whole plays out like a more mature and intelligent Portal, but unfortunately falls short on a few key elements to make it a lasting classic. From some unpolished puzzle design (such as timing requirements) to often lacklustre environmental interaction, there is definitely a missed opportunity here to make the mechanics into a great and truly memorable experience. Still, if you enjoy this genre, Quantum Conundrum is a true gem that deserves to be played.
Written by Lax