Publisher
Square Enix

Developer
Airtight Games, Inc.

Released: July 11, 2012
Reviewed: July 12, 2012
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Genre: Action-Puzzle
Players: 1
Also on: PS3, PC

Supported Features:
  • 1.47 GB (Full Game)
  • HDTV 720p/1080p
  • In-Game Dolby Digital
  • Content Download
  • Leaderboards

  • What We Liked:
  • Fantastic Puzzle Design
  • Creative Solutions
  • Excellent checkpoint system

    What We Didn't:

  • Unimpressive graphics
  • John de Lancie rambles on
  • No real story to speak of

    The Final Score: (?)


  • Quantum Conundrum

    If you loved all the crazy and inspired physics-based puzzles of Portal 2 then Quantum Conundrum should satisfy your thirst for sciencey knowledge, as you attempt to master the four unique dimensions in this equally creative and often-wacky action-puzzle game now available on Xbox 360 and PS3.

    Quantum Conundrum puts you in a massively complex cliff-side mansion with twisting maze-like corridors that all look the same and all connect to dozens upon dozens of fiendishly clever puzzle rooms. You’ll need to thoroughly explore and solve them all in order to restore power to the mansion and free your uncle, Fitz Quadwrangle (John de Lancie) who has been trapped in another dimension, but is still able to give you hints, advice, and other incessant ramblings as you make your way through his home.

    At the core of the game is your Interdimensional Shift Device, a high-tech wrist guard that allows you to shift between multiple states or dimensions. The Fluffy dimension makes everything from furniture to safes (yes – there are thousands upon thousands of safes in this game. Don’t ask…just go with it) light as a feather, allowing you to pick them up and move them around or even throw. The Heavy dimension basically turns everything in the area into indestructible high-density metal, great for adding weight to trigger a pressure switch or making a couch or safe laser-proof.

    The Slow Motion dimension is perhaps my favorite and while it isn’t all that useful by itself, when combined with Fluffy and Heavy, you start to unlock some serious puzzle-solving abilities. My favorite example of this dimension has to be the library puzzle where you flip a switch and four cardboard boxes and a safe all fly around the room in a two-second burst of action. Turn on Slow Motion and hit that switch and you now have 30+ seconds where you can now jump over and ride that safe across the room, grabbing and throwing those four cardboard boxes all in succession, up onto a higher ledge so you can use them to weigh down four pressure pads with a quick switch to the Heavy dimension. Another favorite level, Manhattan Transfer, also makes great use of Slow Motion by having you ride a sofa across a huge pit, grab a Heavy capsule, then jump across multiple pieces of crisscrossing furniture, all flying around the room, to make your way to a high ledge.

    Last but not least is the Anti-Gravity dimension that pretty much does what the name implies. These various dimensions and your ability to control them are slowly trickled into the game as you unlock and explore new wings of the mansion. Much like Portal 2, the concepts are introduced and then slowly expanded upon, both in theory and complexity of the puzzles and their multiple solutions. Thanks to the wonders of physics (and a bit of chaos theory) there is no one way to solve these puzzles. I’m sure the designers have their “intended way”, but I’m certain a few of my unorthodox methods to reach certain ledges to obtain a collectible robot are a bit outside the proverbial box. Some areas limit your choice of dimensional canisters, forcing your to swap out tanks in order to complete certain rooms and puzzles.

    A great example of evolving difficulty and puzzle-solving is the introduction of the dodecahedron. In this room you can spawn infinite “balls” that you need to “shoot” into their basket-like receptacles. The first one is easy; just point and throw. The second one has you launching both yourself and the dodecahedron into the air using jump pads that are triggered by first using Heavy then switching to Fluffy. Once in the air you quickly grab and throw the ball into the basket. The third part of this room has you simultaneous launching the dodecahedron straight up from its own pad while you launch yourself from an angular pad halfway across the room. As you fly through the room you grab the dodecahedron in mid-arc and alley-oop the ball into its home.

    The difficulty of these puzzles range from painfully obvious to diabolically evil, but that only makes the satisfaction of solving them that much greater. In fact, I would go as far to say that I got a bigger endorphin rush at the moment of realization of how to solve the puzzle rather than the actual act of completing it. At that point it was more about brain power than my ability to finesse the controls to make it all happen.

    Controls are a bit of an issue, especially when precise jumping is required, which is pretty much all the time. Your character has a tendency to not stick his landings so well, often sliding forward off smaller objects, which instinctively has you moving back after each jump so on those rare occasions when you do stick the landing you often walk backwards and still fall. The default jump arc seems to fit with the spacing of most puzzle jumps, so the trick is to just not overthink these jumping areas and use the Slow Motion always. As for manipulating the dimensions, that is handled with the triggers and shoulder buttons, allowing for toggling of any dimensional effect or even a direct change from one state to another. Working these in specific order or patterns is required to solve the more complex puzzles.

    Being an Xbox Live Arcade game, we can’t really expect the same high-tech graphics as a AAA retail game like Portal 2, but the graphics in Quantum Conundrum are still a bit lacking when it comes to what we normally get, even with a digital download title. With simple polygon architecture and flat shaded textures that are mostly primary colors, the game looks more like a Wii title than something you’d see on the 360 or PS3. This is one of the first games in a long time where the PC has no major graphical advantage over the console version.

    Then again, this game isn’t really about the graphics, and the fantastic puzzles and charming presentation value don’t suffer in the slightest thanks to the quirky inclusion of giant spherical faces that spit out furniture and safes then swirl their creepy robot tongue around, or the Cheshire-cat-like creature, Ike who may offer you a dimensional battery or just pop in to tease you, and the disembodied voice of your uncle who will regale you with tales of his trips through time to hunt now-extinct tigers or his search for the Lost City of Gold, while occasionally dispensing useful tips and hints when new puzzle types are introduced. Sound effects are mostly practical and environmental, but there is good placement within the Dolby Digital 3D space and some neat audio treatments when you invoke specific dimensional shifts. The score is minimal at best, which helps you to focus on the puzzle-solving at hand without the distraction of repetitive thinking-music.

    Your game time will vary based on how easily you can figure out these puzzles or how fast you resort to watching somebody else solve them on YouTube. On the few occasions I did resort to checking out somebody else’s solution I came away guilt-free in the knowledge that I “would have never figured that out in a million years”. Yes, there are some true brain-hemorrhaging puzzles lurking in this game, mostly in the final chapter where your mastery of all the dimensions comes into play, and while there is no cooperative gameplay, that won’t stop you and a group of friends from all gathering around your TV, shouting out ideas, and finger-tracing diagrams on your screen trying to make your way through Quantum Conundrum's challenging puzzles.

    Alone, with friends, or even under the occasional guidance of a YouTube video, Quantum Conundrum is one of the most satisfying experiences you can engage in on the Xbox Live Arcade, and I can’t wait for some DLC so I can push my brain even further into new states of dimensional awareness and rewarding gameplay. I highly recommend this game for anyone who loves to think outside the box and enjoys a good challenge based on a core understanding of momentum, inertial, time, space, and physics.

    Screenshots