|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Airtight Games|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: June 21, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Comic Mischief|
by Robert VerBruggen
Up until now, the Portal games have had the 3D first-person puzzle genre pretty much to themselves. But no longer. Kim Swift, one of the main brains behind Portal—she helped create Narbacular Drop, the student project Portal was based on, and served as lead designer of the final product—has left Valve and shamelessly used much of what she learned to make Quantum Conundrum. In some ways, the game is almost uncomfortably similar to what came before it—but it's also nearly as good. And it's selling at a $15 price point. So for Portal fans, this is a must-buy.
The formula will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played Portal or Portal 2. You're in a facility that contains a series of puzzles, and there's an authority figure directing you through them while providing humorous commentary. The puzzles rely heavily on 3D physics, require some platforming chops here and there, and allow you to make changes to your environment to get where you're going. There are lots of lasers. Between each puzzle there is some basic navigation—in this case a hallway rather than an elevator, in addition to some doors—to mask the loading times. Once you complete the campaign, you can try to win some additional challenges, such as solving the puzzles within a time limit or using the lowest number of moves possible.
Of course, that's not to say that Swift and Co. outright remade Portal. For starters, the basic mechanics have been completely remade. Your portal gun is gone, replaced with a special glove that allows you to change various things about the room you're in. Each puzzle provides you with a certain set of modules for the glove. You might be able to make the entire room "fluffy"—that is, one-tenth its usual weight—so that you can pick up a heavy safe, put it on a button, and then make the room normal again so the safe's weight pushes the button. There's also a module that makes everything in the room heavy, one that slows down time, and one that reverses gravity.
Much like the different-colored paints in Portal 2, these modules give the developers a lot of options when it comes to designing levels. While there are some "pick up this box and put it over there"-type puzzles, the majority of them are rather elaborate, requiring deep thought and careful consideration of all the options. And the genius behind Portal's level design truly shines through here—plenty of the puzzles are tough and counterintuitive, but none of them are so hard that you'll become frustrated. As was the case with Portal, you normally feel "plugged in"—intensely engaged, but not twitchy or irritable—when you're playing Quantum Conundrum.
Swift also tried to completely change the atmosphere of Portal to make Quantum Conundrum distinct, but unfortunately, this doesn't work nearly as well. You are not a prisoner in Quantum Conundrum; instead, you're a small child visiting his uncle, a crazy scientist who loves to tool with the laws of nature. Your uncle gets himself trapped in another dimension, and you need to explore his house to figure out how to bring him back. That's a fine idea, but the implementation leaves something to be desired.