Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Completed - Quantum Conundrum

Quantum Conundrum is a light colourful family friendly first person puzzle game by Airtight Games, the Creative director for this game is Kim Swift, one of the minds behind Portal. Unsurprisingly it feels pretty similar, you have a constrained indoor environment that moves the player from puzzle to puzzle and a complete lack of violent conflict.

The player is the nephew of Professor Quadwrangle sent to keep him company. The Professor is not particularly pleased by this turn of events, but this is apparently now a semi-regular event. He is voiced by John de Lancie who does a good job portraying an arrogant egotistical professor who isn't above accepting a little help when necessary and whom does seem to feel a little responsibility for the player.

The core mechanic of the game is dimension shifting, there are a total of 5 dimensions used during the game normal, fluffy, heavy, slow-time and reverse gravity. Each puzzle will give the player access to some or all of these, sometimes they won't be available from the start so part of the puzzle is locating and retrieving the batteries required to unlock the other dimensions.

These puzzles get quite complicated as the interactions between dimensions increases, swapping between fluffy to lift large items and throw them, slow time to then jump on them and use them as a platform, heavy to get the item unharmed through lasers and reverse gravity to keep it in the air. This is definitely more in line with Portal 1, where you can become pretty frustrated because you know the solution to the puzzle, but you cannot quite get the dimension shift timings right.

That is where I think Quantum Conundrum biggest flaw lies, as a game it feels fiddly, most of my deaths were because I pressed accidentally pressed the wrong button or I managed to simply mistimed the next shift. I know what I needed to do, I knew what I did wrong, but it still took me another 5 attempts to pass couch surfing without dying from bumping the ceiling. I think this makes it more frustrating than it is aiming to be. I was especially disappointed with the DLC because it was more of this fiddly timing based content rather than more story.

I really like the way that the dimension shifts alter the art style, you would never miss which dimension you have shifted into. Everything changes drastically in appearance, but each object remains recognisable. It is especially cool to see how the paintings on the wall change. I recommend trying to find all of the variations. I also recommend trying to find all of the titles of the books in the game, they are all Science! variations of other works. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, it is appropriately light and fits well with the overall aesthetic style of the game

The game tries to soften your (too frequent) deaths for you by popping up a little screen with "Thing #N You Will Never Do". I understand the attempt at humour and think it works for most people, but I really wished you could turn it off. Things they will never get to do are one of the things that make young deaths tragic. I am probably a little oversensitive to this particular issue but that really left me cold.

Overall, it is a very good first person puzzle game, I enjoyed the story and most of the puzzles and would like more storyline content. It ends with a very clear sequel hook and I was surprised and disappointed that the DLC does not seem to continue it, seems that I will be waiting for Quantum Conundrum 2.

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