I sometimes wonder if there are dimensions parallel to our own, similar yet different in some fundamental way, operating outside of the boundaries of our understanding. Then I wonder what would happen if I could somehow access those dimensions, exploring the differences. Fortunately, Quantum Conundrum answers that question; I would use my ability to shift dimensions to solve some physics-based puzzles, and have a really good time doing it.
The game begins when you arrive at your uncle’s house for a visit. As you’re carrying your luggage inside there is an explosion – it seems that your uncle has been experimenting with alternate dimensions, and has managed to get stranded in one of them. Despite being physically absent, he can still communicate with you, and directs you to his lab and a glove that will allow you to shift dimensions. Using your shifting ability and your puzzle solving skills you’ll have to work your way through the house and power up the generators if you want to bring him back.
Quantum Conundrum is a puzzle platformer played entirely in the first person perspective. In order to solve each puzzle, you will need to use your dimensional shift abilities to manipulate objects in that area to reach the exit. There are four different dimensions that you will gain access to over the course of the game: fluffy, heavy, slow and reverse gravity.
You and the environment stay the same across all dimensions; only the property of the objects around you will change. For example, a safe is too heavy to move normally, but in the fluffy dimension everything weighs less, and you can carry it around with ease. Conversely, a cardboard box is too light to trigger a pressure switch, but in the heavy dimension it will weigh enough to get the job done. In the slow dimension, you move at normal speed while everything else slows down, which is necessary for many of the games platforming elements. Likewise the reverse gravity dimension leaves you unaffected while objects fly up to the ceiling.
Understanding the rules of each dimension is not enough to progress in Quantum Conundrum; you also need to use them in combination in order to succeed. For example, in order to cross a gap you may need to reverse gravity to raise a safe and then, when it reaches the necessary height, quickly switch to the slow dimension to hold it in place so you can jump across. Dimension switching is fast and easy, and all of the controls are smooth and responsive. My only complaint with the controls was that when bouncing on a trampoline-like apparatus the timing required to get a big bounce sometimes felt inconsistent.
Visually, the game is ok but some sections are very bland. There is a lot of repetition as you go through the halls of the house, which really only exist to move you from puzzle to puzzle. The music is simple but catchy, and the voice work is excellent. As you proceed through the house your uncle rambles about the dimension he’s in, explains photographs on the walls or gives the occasional clue about how to approach an area. The dialog is funny, and there are quite a few science jokes scattered around.
With the similar structure, omnipresent voice, first person controls puzzles and the same designer (Kim Swift), it’s hard not to compare Quantum Conundrum with Portal. In addition to the dimension shifting dynamic, Quantum Conundrum distinguishes itself by placing a much heavier emphasis on platforming than either of the Portal games. There’s a lot of timed jumping and actions to do here, and things can get very tricky, especially towards the end of the game. It’s not uncommon to fall to your death or find yourself in the path of a laser beam as you navigate a puzzle. Fortunately, there are multiple checkpoints in puzzle areas, so dying doesn’t mean having to redo a whole lot.
Quantum Conundrum is a great game that stretches your brain and forces you to think in different ways. It’s fairly long as well, and I spent about 10 hours finishing the main game. There are goals related to time and the number of shifts needed to solve a puzzle, which adds some replay value. It’s a terrific game for puzzle and platforming fans alike, and at $15 it’s a great bargain.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.