First person games on consoles are predominantly used for shooters; so it comes as a refreshing change when games like Portal arrive, showing this genre has more to it than just sending in the Nukes. It comes as no surprise that Quantum Conundrum comes from a team hosting one of the creative geniuses that gave us new ways to enjoy cake in Portal 2, and just like that game, it’s yet another top notch First Person Puzzler.
Quantum Conundrum’s story centers around your character, the nephew to a great scientist who over the years occasionally looks after you and shows off his greatest and newest inventions. This time though all seems to have gone awry, with Professor Fitz Quadrangle somehow teleporting himself into another dimension and losing most of the power to the Quadrangle Estate. Fortunately he is still able to contact you via the house telecoms and so begins tasking you with turning on all of the generators in the building to try and return him to our dimension. Of course being a slightly eccentric inventor, his house has taken on a more of a testing ground for his more recent batch of inventions, leaving the most simplest of things like opening a door to become a brain teasing challenge.
The game starts off at quite a leisurely pace, with the Professor explaining the many beneficial items that will assist you that are dotted around the estate, from the cloning machine that will throw out items like chairs, tables and safes, the perpetual motion duck that can be used to turn off and on switches periodically and the strange cat like being Ike; brought in from another dimension who will offer help now and then before teleporting away as he is quite shy. You then have the Inter-Dimensional Shift Device (IDS) itself, a portable wrist device that is able to switch the wearer to four different dimensions, each with their own physics. You are however drip fed these powers, with you starting off only with the Fluffy Dimension, where you can pick up even the heaviest of items, since everything here is as light as a feather.
As you progress through the many rooms of Quadrangle Estate you will find even more battery packs to try out, with the Heavy Dimension adding extra weight to every item, making you unable to pick anything up but in turn, they are indestructible. The Slow Motion Dimension will make all items run at a snail’s pace; handy for crossing huge bottomless pits, using items spewed from DOLLI the cloning machines mouth as platforms and finally the Reverse Gravity Dimension; where everything not nailed down is thrown to the ceiling. As you flip from one dimension to the next you will notice that you are always the same, so in slow dimension you will still move at the same speed as before and in heavy you are not just squished to the ground; this is important to remember as many of the puzzles rely on your perception of what you are able to accomplish in each dimension.
Not only do the physics of each dimension change, but also their appearance, giving you a visual reminder as to where you are. The actual mansion can come across as a bit bland, with lots of very similar corridors and the same pictures hanging on the walls as you traverse from one room to the next, but this is spiced up with each dimension, with fluffy coating the walls and ceiling in white padding and making all of the items look like they are wrapped in fluff, the heavy dimension turns to an oppressive dark red, where the walls are covered in steel and rivets, to the scratched video style of slow motion, as it all goes sepia toned as items slowly pass by you.
The puzzles themselves will either be explained by Professor Quadrangle, who will give you a rough idea of where you are supposed to be going or you will just walk into a room with the game expecting you to work it all out for yourself, flicking switches and trying out different combinations of the IDS to make your way to the next room. It is here that the game will really tax you, especially once you have more than one dimension at your disposal. You can only use one dimension at a time, however you can learn different combinations to see what physics bending tricks you can pull off, like catapulting yourself across a room on a box that is one second made of steel and the next, light as a feather.
With a unique Saturday morning cartoon approach to the visuals the game looks great and runs very smoothly and being a first person view you are able to command the camera as you see fit. However an issue with any game like this is the awkwardness of the platforming elements as it is very hard to judge when to jump, especially on the longer ones, you will die quite a bit by either jumping too early or not at all. This is a problem that has dogged first person platform games for a long time and even here, it will present itself as the only downfall of such a great game.
Quantum Conundrum is a masterpiece of puzzle gaming, constantly upping the ante but somehow keeping the goal always in reach and testing not only your mental skills but your first person skills as well. Well worth a place in your collection.
Rating: Outstanding Review Policy (version tested: XBLA)