Quantum Conundrum contains some great mind bending gameplay elements, but a myriad of flaws prevent it from reaching the lofty heights of lead designer Kim Swift’s previous work on Portal. To be brutally honest, the story here is as shallow as a puddle and ends more abruptly than any game you care to remember. It feels almost as if everything else in the game was produced before the plot was cobbled together. As the credits roll, you begin to suspect that a barrage of DLC will soon follow in order to address this particular issue.
As the game opens, your silent protagonist arrives at the mansion of his uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. An experiment gone wrong has trapped the Professor in a pocket dimension, with a bad case of amnesia to boot, leading him to task you with arranging his escape by powering up three generators strewn around the mansion. In order to do this, you must use the Inter-Dimensional Shift (IDS) glove, a device which allows you to switch between the mansion’s four extra dimensions: the Fluffy Dimension, in which everything becomes one tenth of its weight; the Heavy Dimension, in which everything becomes ten times its weight; the Slow Dimension, in which things move at one tenth of their normal speeds and finally the Reverse Gravity Dimension, which pretty much explains itself. By transitioning between these dimensions, you’re able to traverse the rooms of the mansion and solve numerous puzzles whilst the sarcastic Quadwrangle provides a running commentary.
Playing this game can become an exercise in frustration, but not for the reasons you might think. None of the puzzles are overly hard given the range of options the shifting mechanic gives you. No, the most difficult thing to overcome in Quantum Conundrum is its extensive use of platforming sections, all done in first person. When undertaking precision platforming, it is important to be able to stop on a dime. This is not the case with Quantum Conundrum, as the momentum present means you will often overshoot your goal or simply slide off after landing. These problems, combined with the lack of a character model, make it very difficult to judge relative distances, something which becomes particularly evident if you aren’t timing your jumps precisely. Leave it a fraction of a second too late and you simply run off the edge of whatever you are on.
In an attempt to lengthen the experience, Airtight Games has added the option to replay levels to achieve a variety of different goals such as using the least amount of dimension shifts possible, completing the level in record time or without dying. While the first two of these will appeal to your more cerebral instincts, it will be the last goal that undoubtedly frustrates you due to the flawed platforming elements of the title.
Whilst the graphics aren’t going to win any awards for technical achievement, they also don’t serve to let you down. The art design, on the other hand, is repetitive and dull, with many of the areas later in the game triggering an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. The soundtrack is of a similar nature, being repetitive and ultimately forgettable. In terms of technical flaws, the strangely long loading times between levels leave you standing at the doorway to the next room wondering whether you’ve actually completed the previous puzzle correctly.
Even if the concept of the game appeals to you, you probably won’t enjoy Quantum Conundrum as much as you have similar games in the genre. If you are able to look past its issues, there are some truly enjoyable puzzles present, which could well have you smiling smugly as you decipher the solution. On the other hand, you could also end up hurling the controller at the nearest wall when you slide off a platform while executing a well timed dimension shift for the tenth time.