It is funny what jumps out at you as you sit down to play a demo of a game. Trying out Quantum Conundrum, the upcoming game from Portal creator Kim Swift, I was wowed by the dulcet tones of the narrator Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. ”Is that John de Lancie…is that Q?” Kim, who I had no idea was behind me, chuckled and said yes. Smiling the grin only a Star Trek nerd could have, I dug into the game and was wowed even further.
Quantum Conundrum is instantly accessible to anyone who has played any Portal in their life, and descriptive enough in the tutorial for those who haven’t. The game follows the adventures of a 12 year old boy who gets stuck in Q’s, err, I mean Professor Fitz Quadwrangle’s mansion and has to try and escape as well as rescue the professor (who happens to be the boy’s uncle). Gameplay focuses around the fact that Professor Q (giggle) has created a way to switch the world into four dimension types: The soft and cuddle fluffy dimension (items are lighter), heavy dimension (objects are heavier), slow dimension (times slows to a crawl) and gravity dimension (gravity switches).
At first you need to use buttons to trigger the dimension shifts using a Interdimensional Shift Device (IDS) but later on you get a glove that lets you switch dimensions at will. Of course there is a catch, each level has batteries that are required to power the IDS, if you only find the white battery then you can only change to the fluffy dimension. The results are puzzles that are brilliant and a great deal of fun.
At times I needed to lighten the weight of objects so I could move a heavy safe onto a button, other times I had to harden things to block a laser. Some platforming is evident in the game and often times slow is needed to get the chance to jump to other items in the environment. The game sometimes has dimensions switching on and off on their own, so you need to really watch your timing. Speaking to Kim and the team they wanted a game that was challenging, but not punishing, so there is no failure, just a chance to retry the puzzle.
The world is presented in an incredibly charming fashion with some really great graphical tricks when the dimensions are shifted. The fluffy dimension makes everything look, well, soft and fluffy, while the heavy dimension transforms everything into solid looking metallic objects. It really is cool to see and happens so quickly and fluidly. Even background items like paintings and books change. For example, a painting of a stern man turns into the same man in a rabbit suit in the fluffy dimension. I was told there are dozens of visual gags like this and I wanted to instantly see them all.
Even though this is reminiscent of Portal, it is Kim Swift’s game after all, I was pulled in by the charm and gameplay dynamics in Quantum Conundrum. The story is sarcastic but light hearted which will be a nice departure from Portal’s sarcastic but dark humour. This is a game I am itching to play again and it is set to come out this summer on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Microsoft Windows.