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[PSN Review] Quantum Conundrum

Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzle-platform video game developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix. It was designed by Kim Swift, who formerly worked at Valve as a lead designer on Portal. There are many similarities to Portal that can not be overlooked, but that is a very good thing. Although similar in some ways, it is definitely unique in others.

You play as the silent twelve-year-old nephew of the brilliant, yet eccentric inventor, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. Quadwrangle is voiced by John de Lancie, made famous as “Q” in Star Trek: The Next Generation. You are sent to stay with Quadwrangle, who has become trapped in a unknown dimension, with no memory of what has happened. Fortunately, Quadwrangle is able to watch and communicate with you.

To help find him, Quadwrangle directs you to his latest invention, a glove known as the Inter-Dimensional Shift Device or IDS. This IDS allows you to shift the world around you to a different dimension at the press of a button. You will use this IDS to help you navigate through Quadwrangle’s mansion, clearing one puzzle-room at a time, working your way to 4 different generators that need to be restarted in order to find your uncle.

The player can run, jump, interact with various switches, and lift light objects. The player can die by falling into toxic liquids, bottomless pits, falling too far, or from being hit by lasers. The goal of each room is to reach its exit door. To do so, you’ll need to press buttons, throw switches, and use the different dimensions to help you get there.

Although you can switch between five dimensions (including the normal dimension), only one dimension at a time can be accessed. The four, non-normal dimensions are:

-The Fluffy dimension, where objects are ten times lighter than normal

-The Heavy dimension, where objects are ten times heavier than normal

-The Slow dimension, where time slows to ten times slower than normal

-The Anti-Gravity dimension, where gravity is removed

Chris Ballew of “The Presidents of the United States of America” explains it best in the games song heard here:

Then I flip a switch and fluffy is everything,
Plush and sweet and soft and pink!
I flip a switch and heavy is everywhere,
Crash to the ground from out of the air!
I flip a switch and time goes down, down, down…
Stretching thin and stretching out…
I flip a switch and lose the gravity,
Light as a feather and floating free!

I can’t stop singing it! 🙂

The player is not affected by these new dimensional laws of physics. For example, in the Slow dimension, the player still moves at normal speed. When you first enter a room, you can not switch to a dimension until you find a specific dimensional battery to allow you to use that particular dimension in that particular room. Sometimes they are easy to grab, and sometimes that becomes a puzzle in itself.

You start the game having only the Fluffy dimension, and gain access to the others as the game progresses. Using the dimensions is a particular way is how you will solve the puzzle of getting through each room. Here are some examples of how you might progress:

You can switch to the Fluffy dimension, pick up a safe, throw it at a window and then switch back to the normal dimension before it hits, to smash that window. You could also do the same by throwing a light cardboard box at the window and quickly switching to the Heavy dimension to break the glass. Now you can get through the window.

You can pick up a safe in the Fluffy dimension, throw it towards a distant platform, immediately switch to the Slow dimension, and jump onto the safe as it crosses the gap to the platform. You might then need to ride a conveyor belt to the door, switching to Heavy to prevent a laser from destroying a object needed to weigh down a button.

For more, check out this gameplay video by Gamespot and Kim Swift herself!

The rooms, or puzzles can become increasingly difficult, and some will require you to use all dimensions in order to get through the room. You might need to switch to Fluffy, pick up a safe, set it on a spring platform, jump on the safe, switch to Heavy to maximize the springs compression, switch to Fluffy, so it springs you both high in the air, switch to Slow at the right moment in order to jump to a fast passing safe that was being shot past you, and then ride that safe to a platform, where you will need to use Anti-Gravity to rise the safe to the ceiling, pressing a button to open a door.

Another neat thing that changing dimensions does, which I didn’t even notice for a while, is change the look of paintings. Some of them are really funny as seen here:

The graphics in Quantum Conundrum are cartoony and fit the game perfectly I thought. There is some great humor, although it does become a little redundant at times. The corridors connecting each level also become redundant, as they are almost all identical. The only other complaint I would have is that I had a hard time jumping the correct distance many times. Although it could have been user error, there was quite a long learning curve for me with the jumping.

On the other hand, the learning curve for using the different dimensions was well done. You are slowly introduced to each dimension, and are given tasks to help you learn how and when to use each correctly. Quantum Conundrum was extremely fun to play through and took me quite some time. I have heard others have gotten through it in a couple hours, but it took me at least six. Many people compare it to Portal for obvious reasons, and I did the same. Although not quite as good as Portal 2 in some aspects, it is just as good in others. It kept me thinking throughout. Some puzzles took me some time to figure out, and then gave me the big uh-huh moment I came to love with Portal. Quantum Conundrum is a great game and was a lot of fun to play. It is definitely in my top 10 PSN games of all time!

Like the Portal games, Quantum Conundrum also definitely left me wanting more. What’s good is that more is on its way, as two downloadable puzzle packs were just announced! “The Desmond Debacle” and “IKE-aramba!” are expected to be available later this summer and will add hours of additional puzzles and adventure through the twisted Quadwrangle Manor. The Desmond Debacle will release August 14 on PSN for $2.99 and IKE-aramba! will release September 11 on PSN for $2.99.

If you enjoy being challenged, liked Portal, or just like great games, you should definitely pick up Quantum Conundrum. For only $14.99 on the PSN, it can’t be beat.

[review pros=”Great Puzzles
Unique Gameplay
Great Fun
Low Price” cons=”Some Repetition
No Platinum Trophy” score=90]

This review is based on a PSN copy of Quantum Conundrum provided by Square Enix.