A puzzler where brains will only get you so far…
As the first game from one of the key creative minds behind Portal Kim Swift, it’s easy to see why a substantial number of PC gamers are immensely excited by the prospect of Quantum Conundrum. Like Valve’s iconic series, this budget release has a quirky comedic wrapper to make the inevitable brain-teasing a bit less intimidating, and a piece of hardware which allows players to fundamentally shift time and space.
This is a familiar formula, but it’s the nature of QC’s puzzles which set it apart. The game begins with the player cast as a young nephew of an eccentric inventor, armed with a special cross-dimensional glove which can instantly transform reality into four different dimensions. You have to free the charismatic uncle – voiced by John De Lancie – by reactivating his dormant lab and venturing to the odd dimension he’s lost in. It’s the kind of premise you wouldn’t bet against Pixar making a movie about at some point, but unfortunately the plot is merely just a wafer thin façade to link different challenges together and chuck in some comical narration as the player ventures from one room to the next. This is only a slight misstep, but after a fascinating opening where you come across exotic inventions, meet a teleporting inter-dimensional being, and gaze upon humerous paintings, the premise doesn’t really progress.
Thankfully the puzzles in QC are consistently excellent with solutions that most rational minds can get to the bottom off. Each of the magical multi-dimensional glove’s different modes unlock in a sequential manner, so you get a grip of what they can do in a very methodical fashion. First up there’s the ability to switch to the fluffy dimension, which allows players to pick up a safe as if it was a feather, the heavy dimension which gives unexciting cardboard boxes the same weight as a cube of a freshly compressed car, then there’s the slow-motion dimension which allows players to run around the world at a regular speed while the rest of environment is stuck in Bullet Time and finally there’s anti-gravity which causes objects to shoot towards the cosmos.
With your handy dandy arm-contraption you can switch between these modes at will; to neutralise lasers, trip weight-sensitive switches and travel across giant ravines by combining different modes. In addition to thinking your way around challenges there’s also a lot of pixel-perfect platforming to be done, which due to the first person perspective can feel clunky and lead to bouts of frustration. Thankfully though you won’t have to wait long if you make a mistake with each puzzle boasting multiple checkpoints and near instant reloading.
With a slender asking price and a campaign which if anything has too much content, there isn’t a lot to complain about regarding Quantum Conundrum. It won’t keep you busy for weeks on end and some of the challenges do feel needlessly fiddly, but it does offer a dozen or so hours of quality puzzle action.
A polished puzzle experience which isn’t perhaps all it could be.
Tags: Quantum Conundrum
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