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Review: Quantum Conundrum


When I first saw Square Enix's Quantum Conundrum at PAX EAST 2012, I was very excited. A new FPS puzzle game from Portal co-creator Kim Swift? Where do I sign up? Unfortunately, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the demo and was left wanting more (pretty much the whole point of a demo), once I started playing the full game, my opinion changed drastically. Which isn't to say that Quantum Conundrum is a bad game... necessarily. It just isn't for me, and might not be for you, either.

The story of Quantum Conundrum has you playing a kid who goes to visit his uncle's crazy mansion to find him stuck in another dimension and it's up to you to work your way through the labyrinthian corridors and rooms (seriously, the place is like a Tardis, it's so ridiculously big) to solve puzzles and rescue him. Your weapon of choice is the IDS glove, which allows you to switch between dimensions, making objects lighter or heavier, as well as slowing down time and reversing gravity. These abilities are what you use to solve puzzles involving boxes, safes, furniture, lasers, pits of death, conveyor belts, and all sorts of nonsense.

Obviously, when compared directly with Portal, Quantum Conundrum is going to come up short in the story and humor department. It's not nearly as sophisticated or interesting. Here, the story is simply enough to keep you moving along from puzzle to puzzle. Your uncle, voiced by Star Trek's John de Lancie, isn't particularly witty, and can sometimes be kind of irritating, actually. Graphics are simple and cartoony, with fun visual cues for each dimension.

The start of the game is quite enjoyable, as you begin solving the simpler brainteasers and work your way up. That moment where you figure out exactly what you need to do to proceed is always very satisfying. However, the trouble begins when you know what you have to do, but are unable to actually pull it off. The first-person perspective is immersive, to be sure, but it also isn't particularly conducive to platforming. When you can't see your feet, it's hard to gauge when to actually press the jump button. The first time I considered rage quitting was towards the end of the first section where you were forced to jump from one conveyor belt to another over and under laser beams. One misstep and you fall into the mists below and have to restart. To be clear, it's not the controls. They're fine. It's a combination of my lack of ability and the perspective being all wrong for this kind of thing.

On the plus side, checkpoints are extremely frequent. So when you do fall to your death and are forced to restart, you're not starting over from the start. But at the same time, that also means that if you're falling in the same spot over and over again, you're going to retrace those few steps over and over again until your brain seizes up and you want to snap your controller in half. There are leaderboards where you can compare your times on specific puzzles with your friends' and redo them until you're at the top, but I was just grateful to even finish many of them, forget about maximizing my score!

The puzzles are clever, and I really wanted to like this game, but I feel like Portal knew that FPS wasn't the right genre for platforming and as such, kept it to a merciful minimum. Quantum Conundrum, however, is full of running, jumping and tests of coordination that I simply wasn't up for. Your skills may be better than mine (in fact, I'm more than willing to bet they are), and as such, you could breeze through this downloadable game (available via Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade) in a couple days, enjoying yourself immensely. As for me, being driven to rage quit every few puzzles wasn't exactly fun.

A copy of Quantum Conundrum for Xbox 360 was provided by Square Enix for the purposes of this review and was played about halfway through before rage quitting.


Dave said:

Sadly I have to agree.... but, but... It's not a terribly expensive game and there are enough flashes of Portal-style fun to keep me going (although I'm not past the lasers you mention yet so perhaps I'll be tipped over the edge shortly!)

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