Quantum Conundrum, the downloadable title by Airtight Games, is a bit of an oddball. The studio, which developed Dark Void, has somewhat of a spotty track record. But with the lead designer behind Portal, Kim Swift, can Airtight turn its record around?
The story, even with how little it matters to the overall game, starts off with a rather interesting premise. You’re the nephew to Professor Quadwrangle, a somewhat ingenious designer, but a person with all sorts of quirks, both good and bad. At the very beginning your parents drop you off at his mansion, only to find out he’s been stuck in a different dimension, and you’ve got to get him out, plus the power restored to the mansion.
While on the quest to restore power, you’ll quickly find out that the mansion has all sorts of surprises, most of them being sort of… odd. If you’ve played Portal, you already have a decent idea of what’s going on in Quantum, it’s a room based first person puzzle game, but what keeps Quantum going is its particularly awesome dimension shifting, and all the quirks that come with it. Through the game, you find yourself in four different dimensions—fluffy, heavy, slow-mo, and reverse gravity. By the names you can guess what each dimension does. But what you can’t tell is while in fluffy or heavy, the art in the game gets a complete overhaul, which is a nice change, because you’ll be seeing a lot of the same throughout the game.
While going through the mansion corridors, you quickly become accustomed to the particular art style Quantum Conundrum has for itself, which is a gift and a curse. Anyone after seeing Quantum could easily identify it, not mistaking it for any other game. On the other hand, the game has only a handful of different art assets, meaning you see the same thing, quite often. The iteration at which textures are used is only mitigated slightly by the fluffy and heavy dimension. I say slightly because over the course of the game you bounce between those two, as well as the normal dimension, so frequently that it becomes dull to look at.
However, nothing can take away from what has to be some of the most fantastic puzzles so far this year. Many times you find yourself going through multiple dimensions within seconds of each other, not only testing your finger dexterity, but also your mental capacity, which is where the real prize comes from. Quantum Conundrum has some of my favorite puzzles in recent memory, especially when you get into the later parts of the game and start utilizing the aforementioned finger ballet. Nothing beats that shot of dopamine your brain gives you after solving puzzles.
With the great sense of joy from solving clever puzzles comes a small bit of dread from the controls, specifically jumping and movement, which are crucial in a puzzle-platformer. Some games allow you to take a running jump and always land exactly where you’d like. That’s not Quantum Conundrum. Quite often I found myself not only overshooting jumps, but undershooting them as well. It’s as if the momentum of the character didn’t always equate to the amount I pushed the joystick, which at some points were mind-numbingly annoying.
The people at Airtight have put in an incredible amount of detail into some of the smaller things in Quantum, the paintings in particular. All the time while playing I would see a painting and instantly shift dimensions to see all the different versions, which I felt was one of many driving forces pushing me through the game. Another small driving force is Fitz Quadwrangle, your uncle and narrator of the game. Fitz by himself is an interesting character, he has time traveled and been to various parts of the world, but the game never really does much with him. Sure he is stuck in a different dimension, but besides telling you stories or gameplay beats, he has no real personality, which is a bummer.
The peaks certainly overshadow the few valleys in Quantum Conundrum. Puzzles are easily some of the best in the business, and even though Quadwrangle doesn’t play a huge part in the game, his time travel exploits play for some fantastic cool down moments in the mansion. With the lack of characters though, the mansion, in which you’re imprisoned, takes on a character of its own, and I’d have it no other way.