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REVIEW | Challenging Puzzles Lead To An On-Par “Conundrum”

By
Posted on July 30, 2012 AT 09:53am

It must be tough for Kim Swift. She could not have even predicted the monster she helped design over at Valve would go on to be a gaming classic. After leaving Valve she went to join Airtight Games, whose last game Dark Void was met with mediocre reviews and some disappointment. With her puzzle-loving schemes she lead her new comrades onward to create a game that treaded familiar ground, while at the same time opened up new doors into the realm of imaginative mechanics. This game would be Square Enix’s Quantum Conundrum, a game that does all it can to step away from its Aperture Science brother’s shadow.

Quantum Conundrum has you take control of a young lad, whose uncle Professor Fitz Quadwrangle (voiced by John de Lancie, AKA Frank Simmons) has gotten himself trapped inside a pocket dimension due to a failed experiment. The Professor’s mansion has now been caught in a massive flux between multiple dimensions, and it is up to you to reverse the damage done by your uncle. To do that, you are given a glove that can switch through these multiple dimensions, as well has help solve puzzles and restart the power generators.

Depending on which levels you are in you are given the chance to warp through four different dimensions. The first is a Fluffy dimension, which helps heavy objects become lighter to carry. Next is the Heavy dimension, which can turn the lightest cardboard box into one heavy paperweight of sorts. Then there is the Time dimension, slowing down the area around you in order to go through fast fans, fly on launched items, and catch objects before they cause any damage. Finally there is the Anti-Gravity dimension, which comes in handy when you need to be given an extra boost in order to reach difficult areas.

Many of these puzzles will have you trying to reach one end of a room to the next, with the occasional lasers, robots, and heavy safes to either help or hinder you on your quest. As the game progresses you’ll be needed to use almost all the dimensions, sometimes switching in the blink of an eye. It’s this aspect that Quantum Conundrum does best here. It starts off slow-paced, giving players a chance to get used to their new powers, then with a gentle push gives you the levels that need to have the dimensions switched both quickly and precisely. Timing is a huge key to being successful, and believe me when I say that you’ll find yourself doing more trials-and-errors than you probably did in Swift’s other game.

Playing with the Xbox version the controls worked wonderfully. Only a few times did I find myself clicking the wrong toggle button, switching to the wrong dimension. Traveling through these dimensions also will have you discovering hidden gems, jokes, and beautiful details revolving around your surroundings. (Be sure to check out each picture in the different dimensions, as some of the changes will have you on the floor laughing.) Then there is the game’s soundtrack by Presidents of the United States of America’s bassist/vocalist Chris Ballew, which is not only charming but also very catchy. Trust me: you’ll be humming “Flip A Switch” for weeks after hearing it.

Quantum Conundrum has its high points, but it’s not without its flaws. For one it seems more focused on being kid-friendly, as if nothing that you do seems to be a true threat on your life. (You can die, but the game doesn’t punish you if you do.) Professor Quadwrangle has his moments, but in the long-run his personality still can’t compete with one that’s not a crazed machine bent on doing experimentations. Lastly there are the noticeable bugs found in the game. While playing Quantum Conundrum the game froze and crashed on me more than five times during the entire game’s length, forcing me to restart from the beginning of the level.

Quantum Conundrum will take you between 6-10 hours to beat in a first run-through, depending on how good you are with this style of puzzle games. You are encouraged to revisit past levels to see if you can beat your past times (as well as your friends’ scores). It’s already been announced that there will be at least two DLC add-ons within the next month or so, meaning there will be plenty to go back to very soon. (Hopefully the add-ons will help make up for the less-than-entralling ending.)

PROS:

  • Cool dimensions to experiment with
  • Puzzles add a depth of challenge
  • Ballew’s sweet soundtrack

CONS:

  • Game still has a few bugs that need working out
  • A bit too kid-friendly
  • Some jokes tend to run flat

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Quantum Conundrum hits many high notes, but does fall flat in a few places. The most important thing, however, is that it’s fun and worth playing. Will it be as memorable as Swift’s Companion Cube-filled predecessor? Maybe not, but for now Quantum Conundrum is a one heavily anti-gravitied fuzzy experience that will not just help pass the time, but also work the brain in many good ways.

FINAL GRADE: 7.7 (out of ten)

The Xbox 360 version was played for this review

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008 where he is a contributing editor and co-host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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