E3 2012 – Hands on with Quantum Conundrum

Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzle-solving game brought to you by one of the minds who helped to create Portal, Kim Swift (you can read our interview with her, here). With that kind of pedigree, you’d be crazy to pass this game up. I got my hands on it, and really, I did not want to stop. I was given access to the entire game from the start and was able to play for around 45 minutes.

The gameplay hook involves the protagonist’s ability to alter the world around him with the help of a special glove. He’s a twelve-year old boy who’s looking for his uncle, Professor Fitz Quadwrangle, after an experiment failed and he disappeared. You’ll be moving from room to room, solving puzzles by changing which dimension you’re in. For example, there’s the fluffy dimension, which not only makes things pink and fluffy like cotton candy, but everything is also nearly weightless. So when you find yourself in need of a heavy object, and you’re a bit too weak to lift, say, a couch, just make it fluffy–problem solved. You can even toss things across the room. At times you can take advantage of some wind currents. one really early section of the game had a fan blowing from across the room towards a wall. The trick was to throw fluffy blocks out in front of you, causing the blocks to stay flush against the wall so that you could use them as platforms to get across a small chasm.

The other dimension that I got to play around with was the “Heavy” one. It makes things heavier and nearly invincible. I came across a puzzle that had four stacks of cardboard blocks. A laser was sweeping left to right, top to bottom. I quickly realized that I needed to make stairs out of these blocks, so I alternated between the normal reality and the heavy one. The heavy dimension lets the laser pass by the current set of blocks without harming them. Then when I needed to destroy a block, I switched to the normal reality. This all happened fairly quickly, and you’ll need to switch back and forth fast. Towards the end of my time with the game, the puzzles were challenging my gray matter, and really, that’s what puzzle games ought to do.

Switching between realities can be quite fun. I chucked a heavy block in the fluffy dimension (making it light enough to throw), then turned it back to normal, watching as it smashed through a window. The game essentially gives you super powers but in a way that requires you to think a little more. There are also some subtle changes that occur between dimensions that don’t have anything to do with the core gameplay. Pictures on the wall will change depending on which dimension you’re currently in. So, for example, a military general in the normal dimension might be dressed in a bunny suit in the fluffy dimension. The heavy dimension brought it’s own weirdness to the pictures (an odd leather-strapped gentleman posing with his pet tiger, anyone?). After discovering this, It made me curious to know how each picture looked in the different dimensions.

It’s safe to say that I had a lot of fun with Quantum Conundrum. One of my pet peeves with games is puzzles that simply aren’t worth my time. I want to solve a puzzle, not use the “key” to open a “door”. Thankfully Quantum Conundrum gives me puzzles that I found enjoyable. It starts off simple to get you used to what is possible in the game, and then the difficulty slowly ramps up. The game presents you with a room, begging you to figure out what physics and objects to manipulate in order to complete the objective. Though there is some funny humor in the game, including a sight gag of a dog so long that he takes up three wall paintings, it wasn’t as funny as the original Portal. Having said that, it still made me laugh. With two whole other dimensions (reverse gravity and slow motion) and numerous, increasingly complex puzzles to solve, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this great-looking game. Things will definitely get intense when all dimensions are required in one single room.

I’ll be looking forward to Quantum Conundrum when it comes out this Summer on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

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