For game designers, I can imagine that a follow-up game is never easy. And it’s particularly harder when it is critically acclaimed and one that could be included in many discussions and arguments for “Greatest Game Ever”. So when I heard that a game was being made from one of the people that worked on the original Portal, of course my curiosity got the better of me. And the result is Quantum Conundrum, released from developers Airtight Games and publisher Square-Enix.
Quantum Conundrum begins as you take control of the silent younger nephew of the brilliant, and somewhat peculiar, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. Being left at his mansion at the beginning of the game, you soon enter in to hear a loud accident and have your Professor Uncle speak to you and say that he doesn’t quite know exactly where he is. Thus starts your journey to look for your uncle all while discovering that his home isn’t quite as ordinary as other mansions. You see the Professor has done what he calls “modifications” which almost completely turns the house into one, sometimes dangerous, science experiment after another.
Along the way you will also pick up the Inter-dimensional Shift Device, or ISD, to help you in your quest. With this glove, and particular special batteries you find, you are able to access four certain different dimensions which you, while being unaffected by them, will need to use in order to solve the various puzzles throughout the mansion – the Fluffy dimension which makes all objects ten times lighter, the Heavy dimension which increases the weight of almost any object, the Slow dimension which slows down time and finally the Reverse Gravity dimension in which gravity is reversed. And at times you will also be assisted by IKE, the Professor’s pet/lab assistant.
Gameplay here is done through a first-person perspective. The main objective of the game is to use the ISD to solve puzzles to navigate through the mansion in order to activate generators the Professor needs you to restart. Along the way you will freeze and reverse time, lift and throw objects you wouldn’t think you could and other things in order to solve each room puzzle.
The puzzles themselves are challenging. You will have to think with all the abilities at your disposal to try to solve them, or to get to certain locations you need to get to. At times you must really think in ways you might not have thought to use them before. Luckily, none of challenges here are ever mind-numbing or frustrating. After studying them, most will learn and figure out quickly what needs to be done in which order to move to the next section.
The graphics of the game are done quite well. Simple, yet with a certain cartoony/animated look that has a certain charm to it. Humor comes with the various pictures hung throughout. The characters within these will change in accordance with the dimension entering such as the Professor’s outfit changing from lab coat to bunny suit when entering the fluffy dimension. Even IKE will display certain funny emotions and faces from time to time when you meet him in game.
Praise I believe should be levied for the wonderful voice acting of John de Lancie (Star Trek series, Days of our Lives) who provides the voice of Professor Quadwrangle. Along the way, while delving deeper into the game, you will learn of the history of the mansion and the Professor along with some of the crazy adventures him and IKE have had along the way in different times and places.
While the game excels greatly in most areas, there are parts where I felt the game fell a bit short. Now while I did say that I enjoyed the graphics and look earlier, the problem I had with that was walking through the rest of the mansion to the same repetitive environments done over and over. You will walk up and down the same set of stairs, open the same looking doors as the others. With detail done to the rooms with the puzzles in them, it would have been nice to see a bit more care done with the rest of the mansion instead of just simply walking down almost bare hallways and such.
And naturally, comparisons to Portal are also going to be done here (designer Kim Swift worked on both games). You will walk from puzzle to puzzle solving them in order to move on to the next area with a figureless voice sometimes guiding your way. Not a bad thing per se’, but the games will be compared in cases.
Quantum Conundrum is a fantastic game, one that players who like Portal or puzzle games in general can enjoy while others who play leisurely can also get into without feeling overly intimidated.
Quantum Conundrum gets a 9/10
(Editor’s Note: A review copy was provided by Square-Enix on PC.)