Quantum Conundrum Preview: Insert Portal Comparisons Here
Have you gotten every single achievement in both Portal and Portal 2 and found your brain itching for that kind of puzzle-solving gameplay? Great news! Airtight's new project with Square Enix, featuring Portal mastermind Kim Swift as creative director, was on full display at E3. You Steam-loving PC owning gamers out there will get to jump in as soon as June 21st. Quantum Conundrum requires the same type of critical puzzle solving Portal did but in a brand-new way. Instead of portals, dimensional shifting is the key.
You play as a child, somewhere from nine to twelve. After being dropped off at your mad scientist uncle's Victorian manor, there is an explosion and your uncle disappears. It's then up to you to use his various inventions, most prominently the Interdimensional Shift Device, to find out what happened.
There are four types of dimensions, Fluffy, Heavy, Slow motion and Reverse gravity. Your triggers and bumpers trigger the various dimensions. The rest of the controls follow the Portal standard with jumping and picking up items, as well as a toss feature.
To give you an example of puzzle solving; say you're in a room and the only way out is through a door with a weighted trigger, but the only object in the room is a safe. It's too heavy for you to lift, so you switch to Fluffy dimension and make the safe light as a cloud. Pick up the safe, drop it on the trigger, switch out of the Fluffy Dimension to make the safe heavy again, and boom, the door is open.
After introducing the basic mechanics, the game slowly builds on them to present harder and harder puzzles. There are over 50 puzzles in all, totaling 6-10 hours depending on how quickly you can solve the various conundrums. We got to see one level that required players to use all four dimensions to create a moving platform out of a safe.
By the way, each dimension looks completely different to instantly let the player know where they are. Airtight went through tons of playtesting, experimenting with color tonality and screen effects, before settling on the looks for each. The result is extremely intuitive.
When I got my hands on the game, it felt like stepping into a snuggly warm bed of familiar brain fun. Not only are the puzzles engaging, but the game has a sense of humor and whimsy to it as well. The mad scientist is no GlaDOS, but he's not trying to be. He's batty and eccentric and somehow says weird things to you from the dimension he is trapped in, and owns tons of books with metaphysical puns as titles. There are also at least 25 paintings on various walls in the house, and each one changes in each dimension, totaling around 100 paintings in all. A favorite of mine was one painting that turned into a Dinosaur landscape when in the Slow Motion dimension. Lulz. Despite all my comparisons to Portal, it's important to note that Quantum Conundrum still feels like a brand-new game. It has a totally separate tone and overall design, a childlike quality that really places you in the shoes of a kid. It's just clearly from the same mind who dreamt up everyone's favorite first-person puzzler.
Aside from being available on Steam on June 21st, the game is expected to come to XBLA and PSN in the summer. But the supercool thing for Steam users is that if you pre-order now you can enter a contest to be painted and patched into the game. Trust me when I say you want to do this.
My only hope is that the later puzzles are as difficult and satisfying to solve as in Portal's final levels, and that the game elevates beyond simply Portal Lite. But based on what I saw today, I'm feeling pretty optimistic.
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