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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Quantum Conundrum'

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This game's aesthetic is annoying. I mean, alright, it's cute enough at first - you play a kid going to visit his mad scientist uncle, who has managed to trap himself in some kind of pocket dimension in his eccentric mansion and is unable to remember how. At least it's the narrator that has amnesia this time, you might think cleverly. It becomes less cute when it degenerates into puzzle room, hallway with jokey dialogue, puzzle room (around hour two). Then the jokes start grating. Listen to the uncle make a crack about these kids and their crazy texting ('is English truly that difficult?'); wonder who the hell is laughing.

The puzzles are littered with sloppy decisions. I have a bunch written down, though they're in the Million Dollar Google Doc, and that's the kind of thing I only quote from in job interviews. Safe for work version: After the initial novelty of the dimension shifting wears off (45 minutes if you've never played a videogame before; 10 minutes if you've ever played 'Portal'), each puzzle is just a room full of locks and keys that you've stuck into each other before.

The game's graphics are clean, its 'quirky environments' lead your eyes where they need to go and it pretends to emphasize physics: I'll guess that most commercial reviews say how great the puzzles are. Well, hey, stranger, here I am: The puzzles suck. Any interesting ideas are only allowed to be interesting for a room before they're driven into the ground. If you know how to navigate in first-person with two sticks, you can play the whole game on the autopilot in your head.

And that's it! This isn't worth playing unless you like things just because they're fairly slickly produced. 'Quantum Conundrum' is fairly slickly produced, and actually it also has the advantage of not really being terrorism in any way, and I can give it a star for that. If only it wasn't also hilariously boring!

It's interesting that this game ended up how it did. Its lead designer has one of the brains that created 'Portal,' which is now firmly entrenched as a game design touchstone. And for good reason: 'Portal's' pretty slick, and it's pretty clever, too. 'Quantum Conundrum's' dimension-shifting mechanics don't have the novelty of the portal gun, which is maybe kind of an alright excuse for it not being as good, but man. I would have said that the inch-by-inch focus testing was 'Portal 2's' biggest problem, but here's a smaller team at a smaller company and their game is just as soft and riskless.

I don't want to play another game that is just more 'Portal' rooms; I don't want to play another game made up of limp Rube Goldberg machines masquerading as 'physics puzzles;' I don't want to play another game like this.

I mean, look, I'm not being fair, because as usual the caveat to the above is 'unless it's amazing.' But in 'Portal's' Hip Puzzle Game zeitgeist, 'Quantum Conundrum' definitely doesn't fit.

There's a single big side room you can get to early on, and you have to find a hidden item in each of the game's three major zones and come back before you can solve its puzzle. The puzzle ends up just making you do a couple of the same things you've been doing the whole game, and the reward is another of the two dozen checklist-collectibles that are hidden everywhere. What a terrible note to end on! It feels like a concession to a certain type of player, but who is it? Every bit of 'Quantum Conundrum's' design suggests that it has a target demographic in mind, one hidden somewhere between Youtube commenters and 'Gamasutra' readers. I don't think it quite exists.

One star (out of four)

Ben Hornsby didn't mention the tongue-in-cheek post-Portal' end credits theme song because oh my god.

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