Rhapsodist Note: Taking a quick break from my Post-Cyberpunk short story reviews to touch on this recent release, especially since I don’t always get to talk about video games, which are of course a big deal on the Web.
I’m not normally a gamer. My first real exposure to that world was Portal, which is fantastic, funny, and challenging in a good way. I love how inventive I can be with portals and use physics to my advantage. So, naturally, when I heard that one of the creative minds behind the Portal games, Kim Swift, was leaving Valve to develop her own game, I got interested.
The result was a puzzle platformer called Quantum Conundrum. Is it good? Yes. Do I love it? No.
Let me explain.
At first glance, this game seems a lot like an homage to Portal. You play a faceless, nameless boy who must navigate a fantastically huge setting with multiple layers and deathtraps, armed only with a curious handheld device that lets you manipulate the local physics of your environment to solve puzzles that let you ascend to the next level. All you need do is replace the voiceover by Ellen McLain as GLaDOS with John De Lancie as Professor Quadwrangle, the Enrichment Center with his mansion, and the portal gun with the dimension-shifting glove, and you’ve got this game in a nutshell.
Again, this isn’t a slam against the game. It still feels like a very complete work. The puzzles themselves are rather inventive. With access to a fluffy dimension, a heavy dimension, a slo-mo dimension, and a reverse gravity dimension, you can pretty much jump across great distances, beat timing challenges, weigh down platforms, and break through a surprising number of windows. It’s very creative and catchy, much like the original Portal.
But here’s where I lost it: the timed puzzles. The kind where you have to jump back and forth between two fast-moving conveyor belts to avoid getting burned by one-hit-kill lasers, with only an endless fatal fog below. The kind where you must jump up high, catch a flying object, and toss it into a hole while cycling through fluffy and heavy dimensions just as quickly. I know that timing is a standard part of any puzzle game, but I wasn’t a fan of them in the Portal series and I’m definitely not a fan of them here.
That being said, if you happen to be any good at timing puzzles, then kudos to you and I think you’ll have a blast with this game. I would never want it said that I’d discourage anyone from being interested in this game because, on the whole, it is fun and Kim Swift has proven her worth as an independent creator just as much as she proved herself as a contributor at Valve.
Bibliography: Quantum Conundrum. Developed by Airtight Games. Published by Square Enix. Designed by Kim Swift. Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Release dates: June 21, 2012 (Steam), July 10, 2012 (PlayStation Network), July 11, 2012 (Xbox Live Arcade).