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Quantum Conundrum

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Airtight Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Puzzle/ Platformer

Graphics & Sound:

Portal has become something of a sacred cow in the video game industry. Nobody wants to compete with it, and for good reason. Valve's critically-acclaimed first-person physics puzzler is a class act. So who better to further populate this niche subgenre than a team headed by Portal veteran Kim Swift? While Quantum Conundrum isn't on the same level as its cousin, it's still a charming and inventive adventure that everyone should at least try.

Aesthetics are key in a game like Quantum Conundrum, even if screen filters make up 90% of them. Each dimension has its own texture and color scheme. Switching to Fluffy turns almost everything into a white gossamer wonderland, switching to Heavy turns everything into an oppressive crimson metal wasteland, and so forth. The visual tricks don't end there; Quantum Conundrum casts you as a child and drops you into a mansion that is as impossibly complex and dangerous as it is huge. You feel this from beginning to end. You are small, and this place is enormous. That being said, Quadwrangle Manor is surprisingly full of empty spaces, corridors, and staircases. This leads me to a small nitpick: if Portal was able to cut the fat as thoroughly as it did, why couldn't this game? Too much time is spent getting from room to room, and not all of these transitions are smooth. Some are great, however; pictures on the walls are full of detail, and switching dimensions while looking at them provide some of the biggest laughs in an already funny game.

Portal 2 did some truly incredible things with sound and music design: things that very few developers have even attempted. Quantum Conundrum could have done the same kinds of things, but sadly doesn't. The soundtrack is comprised of a rather boring series of synthesizer tunes. The voice acting is handled by a single person: John de Lancie of Star Trek and Breaking Bad fame. His performance as Fitz Quadwrangle is a lot of fun to listen to, but let's face it: his character is going up against GLaDOS, and that automatically puts him at a disadvantage.


Gameplay:

Quantum Conundrum casts you as the nameless, voiceless nephew of one Dr. Fitz Quadwrangle, a snooty crackpot who doesn't seem to enjoy your company all that much. How do you know that? Well, he's the type of guy who just comes right out and says it. Every year, you are sent to visit Dr. Quadwrangle in his labyrinthine mansion. However, not five minutes after setting foot in the manor, something goes wrong. Dr. Quadwrangle himself is spirited away to some unknown plane of existence while the manor itself loses power. Your job is to restore power by traversing the four major wings of Quadwrangle Manor and activating a series of generators.

Like in all games, Quantum Conundrum is not about the destination. It's about how you get there. That being said, the core objective of the game is constant throughout: keep going. Dr. Quadwrangle's most bizarrely intricate invention is the Interdimensional Shift Device (ISD). You get your hands on this very early in the game, and it is what allows you to solve every puzzle. It allows you to shift between four different dimensions. Each of these dimensions adds a special physical element to the gameplay, and will be discussed in more detail later in the review.


Difficulty:

Most of Quantum Conundrum's puzzle rooms are fantastic in their own special ways. Each of the dimensions present special gameplay applications that you might not expect at first, but when they reveal themselves, you get a sense of just how much thought went into making Quantum Conundrum.

Unfortunately, Quantum Conundrum isn't content with taxing only your mind. You'll need razor sharp reflexes for some of these rooms. First person platforming has been done well in precious few games (most notably in the Metroid Prime series). Quantum Conundrum cannot count itself among those precious few. These don't get rough until about the halfway point, but they detract from the overall experience. Some of the things you must do might be mistaken for tricks performed by gamers who like to show off.


Game Mechanics:

Every room in Quantum Conundrum features a smattering of environmental hazards and helpers, as well as a healthy amount of random items. Special cloning machines called Dynamic Object Linear Ligation Interfaces (or DOLLIs) are around to replace any vaporized items or provide you with new ones. And you will need these items in order to progress.

The Interdimensional Shift Device is a somewhat contrived but fun mechanic to build a game around. Each of the four dimensions featured in Quantum Conundrum affect the physical properties of everything within proximity of a special battery-powered field. That is, with one exception: you.

The Fluffy Dimension greatly reduces the mass of everything affected. Safes are rendered large cube-shaped pillows, and furniture becomes the probable envy of Sharper Image or Tempur-Pedic. This dimension allows you to pick up most anything. If you need to build a staircase out of safes, you'll make more than one trip through the Fluffy Dimension.

Heavy is the direct opposite of Fluffy. In the Heavy Dimension, most objects become borderline indestructible; there are more than a few otherwise highly-destructive laser beams, so remember that.

Slow Motion is self-explanatory; this dimension usually deals with platforming sequences that would be otherwise impossible to complete.

Finally, there's Reverse Gravity. Every object in a room affected by this dimension (except you) flies towards the ceiling. Did anyone say makeshift elevators?

Quantum Conundrum's puzzles might require the use of one, two, or all of these dimensions. Learning to use them properly is a real treat, and it's here where the game shines brightest. Those who are particularly adept at using the IDS with their environment will be rewarded with collectibles and blueprints for even more challenging puzzles.

Games in the same vein as Portal don't come around very often at all, so if you're a fan, I can't recommend Quantum Conundrum enough. Its asking price of 1200 Microsoft Points is more than reasonable; the game is lengthy and loaded with quality content. It stumbles a bit in certain areas, but Quantum Conundrum smacks of greatness.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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