This game and I have a small history. Back during the summer sale this year, I was interested, but not sure I should put my money into it… and then my brother opened up the demo on the 360. I believe he was trying to show me how bad the game was, but what he showed me is an amazing turn of events where I was jumping between flying furniture, dodging lasers and having a blast with it all. I bought the game that afternoon. Now, having just finished it, I am not sure I should have been as excited as I was. Overall it was great but there were issues along the way had I known they existed, I probably would have bought it with a little more “this will be fun” and a little less “HELL YES!” Let’s go over it, shall we?
Story: Remember what it was like to be a little boy? I bet it isn’t as insane as the day your character is about to have. For the past several years, your mother has sent you to visit your brilliant scientist uncle, and while he has never been a fan of kids, he seems to like you… partly because you are family and partly because it’s that much easier to impress a child when you greet them by flying down the hall with a rocket-pack strapped to your back.
All the same, however, your visit at about the age of 10 proves a bit more problematic. Your uncle wasn’t there to greet you at the door, seeing as he is working on his biggest scientific breakthrough ever. He instead tells you to put your suitcase anywhere and he will be along in a few minutes. Instead, the world flashes, everything changes rapidly, flies around and gets really confusing before he tells you he is having trouble identifying where he is via the intercom system. He has no memory of what happened or why, or anything else. So it’s now up to you to help find and rescue your uncle.
But you won’t do this empty handed. Even if he isn’t there (much to his aggravation) to introduce it, your uncle has provided you with a glove that allows you to warp between dimensions as you need. You start with only the ability to use the “fluffy” dimension, a version of reality where everything is basically a throw-pillow version of itself, but you will ultimately gain access to 4 dimensions of this kind… and you will need them. In order to test out this newest amazing device, the house has been altered severely.
Graphics: If I had to pick two words to describe the look of this game, Cartoony and Stylized would be on the top of my list. If I had to pick a game to compare it to, it would be Team Fortress 2. The game runs on the Unreal 3 engine, but this is likely due to licensing much more then necessity. The game really doesn’t push much power, choosing instead a much more simplistic route. Really, the only example of what the engine can do is really only seen in Ike, a character who you will run into from time to time. His fur lets the engine show off a little of it’s detailing ability, but other then that, this probably could have been done looking exactly the same on the Source engine without much difficulty.
Still, what they lack in power, the visuals make up for in style. The off-kilter look of the rooms give the whole game an unreal feel while the cartoony elements are pushed even further by the robots you will see about the place, be them carrying trays of random stuff or puking replicated furniture, or even just watching you during downtime, they all have personality ranging from a puppy-dog who just wants to be pet to an annoyed worker who sees you as just another aggravating customer. This game just oozes personality.
Sound: Further pushing personality is the sound department… everything fitting the themes above, but the real star here is your uncle. Throughout the game, he will talk to you, be it to brag about his adventures if you look at pictures of him and Ike in odd out-of-character costumes, to complain about you breaking his stuff (or kids in general), or to genuinely offer advice for the current room, he is always absolutely perfect.
The music backing this up is a nice treat as well, though not really anything that will stand out from the game. Still, it’s offered as DLC and frankly, it is a good listen on it’s own. It just doesn’t stand out well in the game itself, which may be for the best since you will have times that you will need to zero out everything but your immediate task… but we will get to that next.
Gameplay: At it’s core, Quantum Conundrum is a puzzle game from the same vein as the Portal series. But instead of playing with basically moveable holes, you are playing with the properties of matter. Do you need to carry a heavy safe? Use fluffy dimension and everything becomes light enough to lift and throw around. How about needing to weigh down a switch when you have nothing heavier then cardboard? Well make it all heavy then, and you’re box will do the job!
This is at it’s core what the gameplay is all about. Add a few more tricks to your inventory and every puzzle is about using these world-changes to get to the next door and progress through the game.
For the most part, this is a very enjoyable experience, and even nails parts that are absolutely exciting. Among my favorites are the first few rooms of the Yellow Wing of the mansion. But that will simply not always be the case. I found about 4 rooms out of the total game (each of the 3 wings has around 15 rooms) that were frustrating to the point that I could easily see gamers quitting right there. In most cases, these puzzles were pretty obvious to solve, but involved complicated changes of dimension and movement to be done far faster then the rest of the game requires, spiking the skill level unreasonably. And a few required outright luck on top of it. Needless to say, I was disappointed considering how awesome the rest of the game is.
Further worth noting is the inadequacy of the default controls. One of these 4 rooms required me to remap the keys since they placed your shifts by default on buttons 1, 3, Q, and E. Q and E are understandable since they are so close to the movement keys of WASD that using them is a breeze, but you all but have to stop moving to use 1 or 3 if you want to use them fast enough. It looks great on paper since your screen shows the powers in the same configuration as these buttons, but in function, it just fails.
Thankfully like most PC games, you can change this so it’s only a minor issue, and I highly recommend making these powers your up and down scroll on the mouse wheel, making them much easier to reach, much faster, and bringing the controls up to speed. What I can’t call a minor issue, however, is the complete lack of a “restore default” option. If you really screw up your controls, there is no way to go back to square one. You are just shit out of luck. Most gamers should have no issue with this, but this kind of oversight was generally taken care of back when we were all playing DOS games. To see it now is really kinda unforgivable… it would be more forgivable to not let the gamer adjust the controls in most cases!
Bugs: This game ran very well overall, but there were a few occasions where it just didn’t understand how to place something around uneven objects:
1) The footrest just threw me to my death: Seriously, it did. I was climbing them like stairs and just before the last jump, the game shifted my landing just to the side enough to hit my head on what I was trying to get up to and fall to my death.
2) Did I just sail through that? Yes I did… a couch I was trying to land on basically let me fall through it. This only happened once, and likely because I hit an arm-rest instead of the main body or something else stupid, but considering this was one of those parts that requires luck, I was not happy.
3) My battery just went ZOOM! Rushing through a door for the fear of being thrown off the edge by crazed robots, I made the mistake of walking into something sticking out of the wall with a battery required to finish the puzzle… and the game decided it should be behind it, sending it flying out of my grasp. The game was now unwinnable without going back to the main menu and “restarting from the last checkpoint.”
Overall: I really can’t say too much against this game. Despite it’s flaws there is so much good in this game, that really, fans of puzzle games should probably give it a try. But be ready to be pissed for a few hours when you hit “that level” cause you will… at least a few times before the game is over. If anything, between that and issues like the inability to fix it with a click should you mess up your controls, I would pick this one up when it’s on sale, not at full price.