'Quantum Conundrum' - XBLA Review

Monday, 09 July 2012 08:56 PM Written by 

“Quantum Conundrum” has a lot to live up to. Lead developer Kim Swift is best known for her work on “Portal,” one of the best puzzle games ever made, and being that these two games share a genre and a creator, the comparison is unavoidable. Unfortunately, “Quantum Conundrum” fails to rise above the high bar set by “Portal” five years ago.

 

The concept behind “Quantum Conundrum” is novel, yet the execution fails. The plot revolves around Professor Fitz Quadrangle becoming trapped in the “Pocket Dimension” after an experiment goes awry. You must travel through Quadrangle’s mansion-turned-laboratory as his adolescent nephew with the help of the “Inter-Dimensional Shift Device.” This device is a glove that allows your character to change the dimensions of the world between fluffy, heavy, slow motion, and gravity switch (more on the workings of each dimension later) to solve puzzles and delve deeper into the House of Quadrangle.

Actor John De Lancie, who does a fine job with the script presented to him, voices Quadrangle. The problem arises with the writing and casting of the character.  The Professor is a cartoonish version of the archetypal eccentric scientist a la Back to the Future’s Doc Brown or Futurama’s Professor Farnsworth, yet the voice of De Lancie is much too smooth and calm to convey a struggle between genius and madness. Too often throughout the game his rambling can be heard giving you hints or explaining the history of the Quadrangle family, yet these rarely humorous quips amount to little more than background noise. He’s a far cry from “Portal’s” GLADoS.

(Much like a real-life uncle, Professor Quadrangle's stories are boring)

The different dimensions are used to flip switches, block lasers, and bridge chasms. The fluffy dimension turns objects into pillows, making them moveable. Heavy dimension turns the same objects into heavy metals, making them immovable, yet impenetrable by lasers.  The self-explanatory slow-motion Dimension slows moving objects, and gravity-shift floats objects to the ceiling. Only one dimension can be active at a time.

There’s a certain art to creating a puzzle game. It’s not just about making a linear course of rooms that grow progressively harder. Part of what made the “Portal” series so satisfying was the deceivingly simple logic used to solve the puzzles. At first glance they may have seemed intimidating, but the solution ended up being much more obvious than you thought. “Quantum Conundrum” fails to capture these “Eureka” moments. The puzzles range from numbingly simple to unfairly challenging. They’re challenging not because of their level of difficulty, but because the means for the solution is never explained in a previous puzzle.

An exceptional story and setting can make a puzzle game more than just solving a set number of puzzles. It makes you want to see what’s waiting in the next chamber. “Quantum Conundrum” is missing that piece. The mansion hallways, decor and reading material constantly repeat themselves, and while the story has its opportunities, it fizzles in the end.

(Quadrangle may be a mad genius, but he lacks an eye for home decor)

I had high hopes for this game, but it ends up as an empty puzzle experience. The concept and the puzzles themselves are implemented well, but other intangibles that can take a game to the next level are absent. “Quantum Conundrum” fails to step out of the shadow of “Portal.”

 

6.5 out of 10

 

Pros:

Novel approach to the puzzle genre

 

Cons:

Repetitive environment
Bland story
Odd choice of voice actor

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