Review: Quantum Conundrum
By Bob Webb on July 25th, 2012 (5 comments)
With its vibrant art pallet, twisted puzzle mechanics, and deranged interdimensional furby, Quantum Conundrum is a game that is hard to miss. Riding high off of her previous projects, Kim Swift of Portal fame, had taken the lead on her first major title after her departure from Valve. While it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, Quantum Conundrum instantly caught people’s attention and generated high expectations in the industry concerning this new quirky platform puzzler.
The most immediate comparison you can make with Quantum Conundrum is Kim Swift’s earlier title, Portal. I went into this game fully intending to judge it on its own merits without comparing to her previous game, which many consider the pinnacle of the genre. After being introduced to the game by a witty narrator, collecting a hand held dimension shifting device and completing a series of chambers comprised of puzzles, I dropped all pretenses: There’s no fucking way you can’t compare this game to Portal. They’re basically the same game with different puzzle mechanics and different coats of paint.
Despite all this, Quantum Conundrum holds up relatively well. The vibrant art style is suited to the environment and tone of the game and the narration does a good job in guiding the story along. While I didn’t find it as witty or entertaining as Portal, it was still enjoyable and there were a lot of nice touches such as having the various portraits around the mansion change based on what dimension you are currently shifted into. The various test chambers ranged from trivial to tricky in a relatively smooth gradient of difficulty.
On the other hand, I did have some problems with the game. The biggest one being the platforming. Dear god, I can’t count the number of times I missed a jump because I had no sense of how far I was jumping or where the hell my feet were. In Portal, you didn’t need to really tell where you were standing due to the fact that precision jumping was not a factor, however, in Quantum Conundrum this is not true. Leaping from flying object to flying object can be incredibly inconsistent when you can’t tell where you’re standing. There were times I had felt I should have landed on something when I fell past it and other times where my mind was reeling trying to figure out why I was not plummeting to my death.
Additionally, in Portal the platforming was a rewarding experience because your velocity was controllable based on where you put your portals and there were very few scenarios where you directly controlled how fast you were moving. In Quantum Conundrum you have full control of not only how fast you’re moving but how fast objects are moving and where they are located at any given point in time. Mastering the combination of these variables wasn’t as intuitive as one would hope but was also exacerbated by the fact that you couldn’t see where your feet were. While it just boiled down to trial and error, it was that one coat of polish that could have taken the mechanics from being “good” to “great.”
My other complaint is with the story: You’re charged with helping save your Uncle who has gotten himself into some trouble but can’t quite remember how. While this was mildly interesting, it just doesn’t grip me in the way that Portal’s evil super-computer did. Quantum Conundrum’s story is very linear. It doesn’t challenge your thinking or introduce any surprises or complexities to the characters. It’s cheap plastic tub vanilla ice cream to Portal’s dark chocolate gelato with complex fruit notes. Without the hook of mystery or story, the only motivation for finishing Quantum Conundrum is to see the new dimensions and puzzles.
Despite my mixed emotions in regards to Quantum Conundrum, it still is worthy of your attention. While I was a bit disappointed Kim Swift didn’t remove herself from the Portal formula, the game is still fun. I guess there is always DLC and future titles, right?
(80-84%: Great; very few major issues)
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